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Dave Bartholomew | Best practices vs. best principles

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If nobody ever reinvented the wheel, they’d still be made from stone.”— Mike Myatt


Bill was walking down the road and saw someone with a great set of clothes. The colors were professional yet eye-catching. The cut made the best of their physique.

The fabric was obviously of the best quality. Bill went online and ordered up an identical set of clothes.

When the package arrived, he ran to the bedroom and changed into the new clothes.

He came out to show his wife. He didn’t understand why she didn’t like the size two dress on his 220 pound frame.

Clearly, not all clothes fit all people or are appropriate for all people. Similarly, not

all practices work well in all organizations.

The term “best practices” has become widely used. Some use the term to leverage their point of view by making the point that, since other people do this, we must.

While the term “best practices” may be emerging with greater usage, the idea of doing things because “everyone is doing it” is not necessarily new. Nor is it necessarily a good idea.

The reality is that many businesses employ the strategy of doing things because others already are. The process they may undertake is to determine what other companies doing, and then replicate it. I have known companies that will not launch a new initiative unless many other similar businesses are already doing so. It is the strategy of imitation, not innovation.

It is wise to stay in touch with industry trends and with developments in the world of business management. It is also wise to extract from those trends ideas that will advance our business and our strategies. It is unwise to adopt those ideas simply because others are doing it.

In fact, just as innovation can be costly, it can be dangerous and expensive to imitate. ᠒3; If you come up with a new product that is just like the one your competitors came out with a year ago, why would anyone buy it? The expense of developing that imitation product might be cheaper than developing a truly innovative product, but it might be a lost investment if nobody buys it because it is just like someone else’s.

If your logo, or advertisement, or trade show booth, are tailored after what other companies are doing, at best, they will be ignored. At worst, you will build a reputation of imitation.

If your employment practices and benefits package are just like other employers in your community, why would people stay with your company?

Why would anyone leave another company to come to work for you?

Consider the following:

  • If other employers in your community offer 10 paid days off each year, consider offering 11. Imagine the power of a recruiting tool that boasts more paid days off.
  • Look at what other companies are not doing and see what opportunities there are to do something different.
  • Pay more attention to your customers and less time on your competitors. Ask your customers what needs they have that are not being met, then figure out how to meet them.
  • If you confront a decision, try asking the question, “What is best for our company and our situation?” rather than, “What are other people doing?”


Dave Bartholomew is the founder of Ascent Advising LLC, working with “corner office” people around the globe to define and achieve their unique definition of success. He and is wife, Nancy, co-founded Simply Living Farm, a shop in Leavenworth providing goods for a sustainable life. He can be reached at Dave@AscentAdvising.com.