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This was an interesting question raised by one of the young Padawan last week in a posting.

 

So do best practices stifle innovation and out of the box thinking? Does it prevent us from trying new things or more importantly does it allow us to optimize repetitive processes to extract maximum efficiencies to then look for new ideas?

 

In some areas, I think we want people to always follow best practices. In medicine for example, we want standards.  We want our doctors to follow a lot of best practices in how they provide care, while at the same time continuing to think and try new things especially in areas where there has been no success. I f I come in with the flu or even a broken arm, I don’t really want my doctor to try something new on me.  I want the efficiency to get the best possible treatment at the lowest cost.  Now that is not to say there cannot be innovation, otherwise we would also still be wearing the old heavy plaster casts vs. a new lightweight air or plastic coated in neon colors.

 

During a recent medical exam the doctor provided a good example of a best practice with the advice around a torn rotator cuff; “if it hurts when you do that, don’t do that”.  So while I follow that best practice approach to limited short term pain, I do want him to continue to innovate and fix it.

 

Henry ford utilized best practices and a repeatable set of actions to drive efficiency in producing automobiles, but if given our choice, The ITSMguy would still choose the handmade Bentely that takes 550 hours over nine weeks for a whole collection of “artisans and technicians” to create ( notice we did not say build).  And Tesla Motors has broken ranks with the century old technology of the internal combustion engine but now needs to utilize best practices to drive down costs in manufacturing.  And the Stirling engine breaks with the internal combustion engine approach based upon a flammable liquid to utilize external heat from any source.  While not necessarily practical in a vehicle, it does offer a new option for fixed power requirements. dean_kamen.jpg

 

In IT we want to follow best practices to eliminate a certain amount of variation in how certain functions are done and this is probably a good thing for basic, repetitive and mission critical process.  Getting a ticket closed quickly because we know the quickest and most efficient way to fulfill this seems like a no brainer. The flip side is that if everyone did things their own way, would things get done and in the order they needed to.  Would people only respond to the most appealing trouble tickets and let the boring stuff just fall by the wayside? I think the innovation here is how people look at these types of functions and think “if I have to do this over and over again, how can I create a script, program or code that can capture all the information, process the task, and offload to an automated process”.

 

So is it that best practices are bad, or are some functions and tasks best suited to leverage the collective to drive up efficiency and drive down costs to allow breathing room for new innovation?

 

Starbucks somehow convinced us move from paying  .99 to $5.00 for a cup of coffee, yet it seems like they follow a process in how they make that delectable liquid. So did they combine both a new idea with best practice?

 

History has shown that innovators from Hannibal to Jobs can create new markets and dynasties by thinking out of the box while others from Lombardi to Walton have made the mundane also work, when you do it well and better than everyone else, while still instilling a sense of progress.

 

And doing some research we came upon a couple of good articles comparing the pros and cons on whether best practices hurt or help us in our daily tasks.

 

So the question for the day is; How do best practices help you in your organization and daily challenges and how do you invite innovation?