Last week, at the World Innovation Forum, the words of one speaker really stuck with me.
“I don’t care about best practices,” said CK Pralahad, author of The New Age of Innovation. “I’m much more interested in next practices.”
By ‘best practices”, Pralahad was referring to the management practice of trying to squeeze every little drop of value out of every aspect of a company. Usually this is done by using programs like Six Sigma that force employees to evaluate the potential ROI of every venture before starting it.
What makes them improve hurts in the long run
Unfortunately, when a company gives all their focus to “best practices”, they actually set themselves up for failure in the future. Why? Because the very thing that makes them improve (intense internal focus) is what hurts them in the long run.
As an example of how easily this happens, try watching the video below. Your task is to count exactly how many times the people in white pass the ball to each other.
Ignore the passes made by people in black t-shirts – and make sure you count carefully! Sometimes the passes are hard to see.
Some of you may have seen this video before, but if you haven’t, you might have been surprised by the ending.
In my case, I definitely was shocked after the first time I saw that clip! I devoted every ounce of attention to make sure I counted perfectly – and I did. However, my iron-clad focus caused me to totally miss what was happening around the people passing the ball.
This is why Pralahad emphasized that companies shouldn’t concentrate only on “best practices” — because markets can change very quickly, and a company that has spent all its effort perfecting current processes often misses seeing unexpected opportunities.
If companies want to be successful, he told us, they need to focus instead on “next practices” – which means staying flexible and always on the look-out for new opportunities.
In my opinion, this applies to people doing personal branding as well. If you focus solely on becoming the best at your current position, you will probably do quite well – until the world changes around you.
Your company could run into tough times and need to lay off workers. Or they could discover that it’s cheaper (and faster) to outsource your job to the other side of the world. Or, a new technology could come to market and make your skills obsolete.
Whatever the reason, if you focus only on being the best at what you already do, there’s a chance you could find yourself on the market… with no one interested in buying.
That’s why you need to focus at least part of your personal branding efforts on what’s “next”.
By that, I don’t mean you should be constantly switching up what you do. This won’t help you at all! No one wants to hire someone who is moderately good at everything when there are specialists out there.
What you should do, however, is keep your eyes open for new opportunities that sync well with your skills and brand. That means if you see that your industry is trending towards a certain direction, you should figure out how you can take advantage of the switch.
During his speech, Pralahad mentioned that for a company to succeed in looking for “next practices” in a fast-changing market, the company needs to be both clear on strategy and agile.
Know where you want to go with a flexible strategy
For personal branders, that means knowing where you want to go, but with a flexible strategy that can respond quickly if needed. And it means looking for new technology and techniques that you can use to enhance your brand.
It also means not setting your “path to success” in stone – because detours are practically guaranteed in the fast-changing business world of today.
So, as we learned at the World Innovation Forum, don’t stake your future on becoming the absolute best at the role you’re in today. Get as good as you can without losing sight of the new opportunities springing up around you!
Katie Konrath writes about “ideas so fresh… they should be slapped” at getFreshMinds.com, a top innovation blog.