Best Practices Are Stupid

I’m stealing the title of Stephen Shapiro’s new book to do a short post — about his new book, Best Practices Are Stupid. It’s launching today and I wanted to post about it in case you’re one of those innovation book junkies.

This is not a review, although I plan to do that with my Kiln partner Kate Hammer. My new company Kiln is on the cutting edge of innovation practice, so, we’ll be reviewing the book and possibly suggesting “and one better” ideas on some of his. This pseudo-review is more about the book concept — and about Stephen Shapiro.

Given the title Best Practices Are Stupid — we have a good idea of where he’s going with this new offering. Reading through the table of contents and the first 30 pages it’s attacking a lot of conventional wisdom about innovation. And that’s a very good thing.

When you think about the concept of best practice related to innovation, immediately I feel a contradiction. A best practice is an established and proven way of doing something. The problem with a best practice is — it’s also an old practice. Innovators don’t only innovate things, they need to innovate How they create things. If somebody can show me an innovation practice or process that’s been thoroughly tested and works every time — a best practice — I’ll show you a practice or process that screams for re-invention (that’s what Kiln is doing as a company).

Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what best practices in innovation are…the old grammar adage comes to mind — know the rules so you know which ones to break (and how to break them).

Alright, enough, I haven’t read all the book yet, but unless I miss my guess, this will be an interesting one. About Stephen Shapiro — he’s establishing himself as the “new” thinker in the innovation space. He’s not an academic, he actively works in the field. He’s written about innovation before in his book 24 by 7 Innovation, a good innovation book, but not earth shattering. Even though his new book is about innovation, it seems like a return of form, or thinking, to my favorite Shapiro book, Goal Free Living. In that book Shapiro makes the excellent point that a narrow focus on a goal can also blind us to opportunity. It was somewhat controversial, because of course, there are some folks who think that without a goal you are rudderless and not likely to achieve. Best Practices Are Stupid is also likely to be controversial (and valuable) because it challenges ingrained thinking.

Leave it to Stephen to upset the apple cart…again. Bless him!

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Posted in Books & Reviews, Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Entrepreneurial, Innovation