Competence: The Myth of Best Practices

Please stop following the map. We reward those who draw the maps, not those who follow them.”  ~ Seth Godin 

Not terribly long ago I worked with a colleague who noted that what made our team’s offerings unique was that we incorporated best practices. I shook my head and responded that we didn’t incorporate best practices, we invented best practices.

Her point was to show how our expertise helped clients advance in their careers. My point was that our clients incorporated strategies and tactics that set them apart from the rest of the folks looking to advance their careers.

We didn’t create new practices out of whole cloth. We tweaked established practices and improved them to develop innovative practices. We developed strategies, procedures, and tactics that others weren’t using, which differentiated our clients from the rest. Basically, we made best practices, better. 

This is critical to competency in the next normal: what got you here, won’t get you there. The traditional use of best practices won’t get you to where you need to be.

The Myth of Best Practices

Best practices are actually rather limiting. They imply the use of standard operating procedures. Standard implies average. Thus, best practices keep organizations and their people average — not exceptional.

In the next normal, average won’t cut it. 

Best practices, it could be argued, stifle innovation. They encourage business as usual. And business as usual won’t be enough in the next normal. 

Best practices lump one in with everyone else — with the vast middle. One who follows best practices doesn’t stand out — they’re average. No one wants to hire average.

Disruptive times turn best practices upside down. Chaos drives innovation. Innovation moves things forward.

Be Remarkable To People That Matter 

Remarkable is getting in front of the people who make decisions, listening to what their problems are, and developing solutions for them. 

Remarkable is not about thinking outside the box. Nothing happens outside the box. It’s a vacuum. There’s nothing there. There’s no audience. If you’re outside the box,  you’re not taken seriously; it’s a lonely existence. 

In order to make any kind of impact, your ideas and your language have to resonate with your audience. If you’re pitching ideas that are way out of the audience’s scope or their budget, you’re not taken seriously. If you only tweak an idea or program from a few years ago, you’re considered out of touch.

But if you listen carefully to the specifics of what’s being said, and you nudge the frame gently and intelligently into something different and engaging, then you’re viewed as an innovator who brings quality work.

Real innovators operate at the edges of the box and move the box’s boundaries outward, creating a bigger box. But they always stay within those boundaries.

Is being remarkable easy? Of course not. If it was is wouldn’t be remarkable, it would be average. 

So this is hard work. It requires clarity and focus: How am I remarkable? Why am I remarkable?  It requires diligence and strategy: Who cares that I’m remarkable? How do I reach them?

So don’t follow best practices; be remarkable instead. That’s the new competency in the next normal.

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Image copyright : Artur Szczybylo