The Danger in Following Best Practices

Last Updated Apr 25, 2008 12:35 PM EDT

I find myself asking this question of myself and others a few times a month when confronted with a decision I feel unequipped to answer: What are best practices used by other companies in these situations?

I should learn from the experience of others, right? Why reinvent the wheel?

Turns out I might be shooting myself in the foot, blogs Scott D. Anthony on Harvard Business.

Blindly worshiping at the altar of best practices is dangerous. The problem is that practices that work incredibly well in one circumstance can be ill-suited for another circumstance.
When tempted to follow the best practices path of another organization , he suggests you ask the following first:
• Are market circumstances similar?
• Are corporate contexts similar?
• Is the practice "modular," with few interactions with other corporate systems?
If the answer to any of these is no, think twice.
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.