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Quote #28

Best practice leads to agreement on mediocrity

C.K. Prahalad

What does it mean?

Leading innovation thinker, Professor C.K. Prahalad was convinced that Next Practices - as opposed to Best Practices - were the key to achieving real breakthrough. Quoted in 2007, C.K. Prahalad said:

Best practices lead to agreement on mediocrity. Because all of us benchmark each other, we gravitate towards mediocrity in a hurry. What we really need is to ask what is the next practice, so that we can become the benchmark companies and institutions around the world.

Established organisations tend to consider Best Practices when delivering innovation, looking at what is already exists in their industry or what competitors are doing. With this approach, companies are unlikely to achieve differentiation and realize their ambitions. Instead, companies should look at identifying and delivering on the Next Practice, which will disrupt the market and enable them to become the “next” leader.

Why do we believe it's important?

Building on Prahalad’s thoughts, the “Next over Best” principle is central to our philosophy. Best Practices traditionally underwhelm as companies not only focus on their own industry and the available “pre-defined” solutions but also tend to be stuck in analysis and planning instead of action as they strive for certainty.

By focusing on the “next”, or what might work better now, we help companies avoid the trap of incremental innovations and the Innovator’s Dilemma. This involves looking for inspirations outside the industry and focuses on quick experimentation and iteration for effective execution. We see this as the best route to deliver differentiation, advantage and successful digital transformation.

How do we put it into practice?

The Next mindset and delivery approach informs and guides every element of what we do with our clients - it is our manifesto for success in all of our projects. This is reflected in a set of proven Next Practices principles we apply: 1) Be industry-agnostic, looking at emerging adjacent and digital patterns 2) Bring problem solving at the core and be technology-agnostic  3) Strike the right balance between analysis and action through a proven route - Phase 0 Strategy; Phase 1 Validation; MVS Scale and Transform.

We helped a major airline better manage disruptions at one of the world's busiest airports through enhanced operational capabilities. The project had to be delivered in thirteen weeks for the coming winter. The solution previously considered was inspired by “Best Practices”: this was about deploying a large enterprise tool which would not be delivered on time. We created a “bubble of innovation”, and by applying a “Next” mindset, we identified an emerging digital pattern that enabled the generation of real-time insights from legacy systems. This created a real-time situational awareness dashboard that initially was meant to be used by a core team of 10 specialist users to manage disruption, but provided significant value and was adopted by the rest of the organisation in the same timeframe.

Further Reading: Becoming a Next Practice Business (Carl Bate, Arthur D. Little)

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