IT Governance

Best Practices Don’t Make You Excellent, but They’re a Start!

The wheel is not something you can reinvent. It is a concept that is constantly reworked and repurposed. That’s the essence of what Greg Sanker is saying at his blog. All this talk about ignoring best practices and thinking 'outside the box' can be self-defeating. Sanker maintains that ‘the box’ is getting a bad rap for the wrong reasons:

The Box has become the standard against which creative thinking is measured. Inside the box thinking is basically solving problems from safely within the bounds of a well understood set of solutions for a given field.  

Average is a Good Start

Drawing from Jim Colin’s book Good to Great, Sanker defends ‘the box’ and the best practices that inevitably reside within it. If adopting best practices can only make you average, then average is a good place to start. The argument is that bypassing best practices can give companies that leap ahead they constantly crave. Unfortunately, by ignoring best practices, companies are forced to expend an enormous amount of energy trying to reinvent that proverbial wheel.  

On the Shoulders of Best Practices

Instead of being purely creative, the best companies copy first and lay an average (good) foundation upon which to stand. That is exactly the kind of strategy that will prepare your enterprise to get ahead, because once a foundation is laid, the company’s energy is then freed to tackle their problems inventively. “We stand on the shoulders of giants,” is probably a more accurate statement than “reinvent the wheel” or “think outside of the box.”

Or perhaps your freed up resources aren’t needed to tackle unique challenges. That’s fine, says Sanker, because in this scenario your business will be able to enhance those features that already make it great:

Let’s say I’m in the proverbial six foot hole in the ground, trying to get out. I have this box, but I ignore it because my challenge is to get out of this hole. Outside the box thinking would have me engineer a ladder, or construct rudimentary stairs. Very creative. High marks for innovation. – Or – I could push the box to the side, stand on it, and climb out. Problem solved; move on.

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