Best Practices stalls improvement

Every “Best practice” should come equipped with a “Perfect enough” definition. If they don’t they are a recipe for stagnation. Here’s why:

When an organisation takes a new initiative, i.e. developing a Christmas themed ad campaign, and that initiative works, it would be complete idiocy not to do it again. The next time around the experience gained in the first implementation creates improvement in execution which in turn leads to improved results. This virtuous cycle continues, and the initiative becomes an institution, and somewhere around that time improvements cease to happen. You still get good results, but you don’t get significantly better results no matter how hard you try.

This is perfectly natural. Almost every type of activity has a limited max potential and as you get nearer to maxing out, the same effort to improve the execution yields less and less improvement of (business) results. It’s called an asymptote, a value that you can get close to, but never reach. In my experience it’s usually the S-shaped version that pops up in business, with a slow start, a good ROI on efforts in the middle, and then that discouraging lessening of improvement at the end.

What happens to almost all businesses (and their marketing departments efforts) is that by getting good at something and dubbing it a “best practice” they tend do do more of it long after they’ve stopped improving results. Good advertisers continue to increase media spend. Strong sales forces keep paying for ever moire training of sales people. Clever innovators focus even more on features. Imagine what would happen if they borrowed some insights from each other! But self-critique is hard (don’t I know it) and when the tactic feels good, it works, it’s safe, why bother casting for something else?

This is when your organisation needs to realize that you’ve traveled the curve beyond the point where it’s “perfect enough”, and you should be searching for new initiatives that still have potential to deliver meaningful payoff on invested effort and resources.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be doing things that work. But good development takes good resource management, and if your looking to improve maybe it’s time to quit digging ever deeper and instead go prospecting at some other place. There’s got to be something you haven’t tried yet.




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