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Meme #02

Next over best

What does it mean?

The ‘Next over Best’ meme continuously reminds our team that the past is not always our friend when solving today’s problems. Customers, competitors and the rules of the game change constantly. This past includes our own intellectual capital and prior experiences.

While everyone knows the world changes at pace, we find the Innovator’s Dilemma* is a difficult trap to escape from.  Often times, this is under the guise of de-risking the outcome based on what is known to a company (business models and technology), buying into some ‘industry-leading’ model based on what somebody else knows, or failing to move from pilot to impact at scale due to regulatory or other apparently unresolvable external barriers. The first two factors combine to create a false sense of security that the challenge will indeed be met. The third factor can create a false sense of longevity in the business model. This is ‘Best Practice’.

Best Practice works well when solutions have been found for very similar problems and the rules of the world are static, for example in physical engineering like building a bridge, but less well in the dynamic world of markets.

Instead of Best Practice, we apply a ‘Next Practice’ approach**, which is a collection of ways of thinking and working that first ensures the challenge or opportunity (the ‘problem’) is fully understood through multiple perspectives, and then ensures new to company insights can be brought into the business model and digital solution - not only to pilot stage but then at scale into company core or new venture.  Examples of ‘Best vs Next’ approaches and the associated capabilities include:

  • Allocating resource to deliver a solution / Allocating resource to answer a question
  • Biasing to what company and industry already know / ‘Unlearning’ and seeking out new knowledge from other industries
  • Seeking certainty through analysis and planning before doing / Delivering value at pace through just enough analysis before validating and evolving
  • Seeking well-defined solutions to problems / Abstracting and applying patterns to problems

 The approaches of the right-hand side require a very different management mindset to those on the left.

Why do we believe it's important?

It is estimated that 84% of digital transformation initiatives fail to meet the intended business objectives***. We find many of these failures are due to the adoption of Best Practices. Their application hinders rather than helps to deliver on the intended objectives and differentiation remains elusive. The gravitational pull of the Innovator’s Dilemma remains too strong to break free from. We find living and breathing Next Practice helps address the Dilemma. It inverts the tendency to default fail, to default succeed. We find the Next Practice approach delivers a c.90% success rate across industry sectors.

How do we put it into practice?

Applying Next Practice requires a conscious decision by the executive to address the challenge or opportunity at hand through a ‘bubble of innovation’ where the answer isn’t known going in, and defining and delivering it will likely result in structural changes.  The Next mindset, strategy and execution approach informs and guides every element of what we do with our clients - it is our manifesto for client success. Talented, bold and empowered people solve problems, methods do not. But they do help. Next Practice Business sets out some of the key approaches the joint client-ADL teams use to deliver breakthroughs.

As an example, our team worked with a major airline to establish new operational capabilities to manage disruptions at one of the world's busiest airports. This needed to be delivered in thirteen weeks in time for the coming winter. The Best Practice operating model and digital solution on the table was going to take 18 months, and even then, the executive team were not convinced the problem would be addressed. Our answer was to create a ‘bubble of innovation’ which allowed us to work one team with the airline and apply the Next mindset. We identified an emerging digital pattern that enabled the generation of real-time insights taking information from existing core systems while respecting operational constraints. We applied the same behavioural psychology techniques used to help rapidly establish trust in “tech advising humans” from the consumer world and applied to the core of the 24x7 operating model changes. The end solution would have felt familiar to Amazon or Netflix but was radical for the airline.  In use today, it allows more passengers to fly during adverse events every day of the year.

Further information:
* Innovators Dilemma, Clayton Christensen
**Next Practice is inspired by C.K. Prahalad 
*** Couchbase, 2017

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