Best Practices Are Stupid

Fellow OPEN contributor Stephen Shapiro has just published a terrific, extremely practical new book, provocatively titled Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Way To Out-Innovate The Competition. It’s an insightful and very useful collection of real-world strategies and tactics that actually work, from a practitioner’s perspective. I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Steve.

Q: You’ve compiled a list of 40 best practices. Wouldn’t I be stupid to use them?

A: (chuckles) Well, I always say that a best practice is to avoid best practices. But there are times when replicating what has worked elsewhere is useful…as long as you understand the context. Blindly using Google’s or Apple’s innovation approach could be a disaster if you have a completely different culture.

Q: What’s a smart way to grow innovation capability in a company?

A: The first step is to recognize that in most organizations, innovation is ad hoc and only happens when someone decides it is time to think differently. To make innovation repeatable, you need to treat it the way you would treat any other part of the business, like finance, which has a CFO, CPAs, processes, systems, measures, and organization and more. Innovation needs a similar but not identical structure.

Q: What’s the single biggest mistake made when trying to innovate?

A: The biggest mistake is asking for ideas willy-nilly, ala “give us your ideas.” We’ve become enamored with gathering opinions and suggestions, but this tends to create a lot of noise and has a debatable ROI. In today’s tight economy, efficient innovation is the name of the game. This requires focus.

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