Dave Snowden, internationally-recognized expert on knowledge, storytelling and social complexity, has given us more ammunition in the fight against mediocrity by best practice. Speaking on Wednesday at an IBM event in Singapore, Snowden offered the following succinct yet powerful observation:
No company who has ever succeeded to be the market leader has ever done it by following the best practices set by the dominant leader in that space.
As I've been typing these words, I've been running a list of market leaders through my mind: Apple, Google, Starbucks, FedEx, 3M. Snowden is clearly correct. None of these leading companies achieved its position by duplicating the work of others. Instead, these companies focused their energies on advancing original ideas and built their continuing commitment to innovation as a prerequisite for sustainable success.
In his Singapore talk, Snowden also argued that necessity is the driver of innovation. When the environment in which the organization operates changes dramatically, the pressure that people feel to try new approaches increases as the old ways of working become harder to sustain. Apparently, Snowden isn't familiar with the association community, however, because necessity is precisely where we stand right now in our need for innovation. So far, however, the pressure doesn't seem to have caused enough pain and discomfort for a critical mass of association leaders to induce them to make innovation a genuine priority. I'm not that thrilled with the idea of making innovation happen due, in part, to a sense of fear. But at this point, I'll take what I can get!
In any event, the next time someone in your association suggests that you look for best practices, tell them to seek out original ideas instead. The former is almost certainly the road to being average, while the latter is the surer pathway to long-term success and realizing your association's full potential..