Organizations are energized over one simple concept: find another organization that is good at something you’re not good at, and copy them (or try to).
The process is called benchmarking and it is characterized by expressions that everyone in business knows such as ’best in class’, and ‘best practices’.
I’ve written many pieces on why I think benchmarking has deadly implications for any organization on the hunt for a best practice.
Benchmarking adds no strategic value to an organization since copying what others do can never result in competitive advantage.
Ultimate competitive advantage comes from being the ONLY one that does what you do.
Benchmarking is culturally dangerous because it creates the illusion that people in the organization are behaving in a way that adds value, when in fact all they are really doing is trying to transplant what has proven (to varying degrees) to work somewhere else.
But, in addition to the above, there is one other fact that copying organizations need to consider when deciding to slide-on-down the slippery slope of benchmarking.
It’s a caution: you may very well be following a ‘one hit wonder’.
It’s a simple proposition really. If one day you’re best in class in any one thing—process, product—and the crowd jumps on the bandwagon to copy you the next, your best in class status suddenly disappears and you’re another member of the herd who happens to have a solution to something that once was best in class.
And where does that leave you, the organization that decided to copy them in order (you thought) to gain some sort of an advantage in something?
You’re deeper in the herd with less advantage—and more ignominious—than you had when the lead dog was best in class and you may have been a fast follower.
There are two profound lessons here:
If you suddenly find yourself in the best in class position, be prepared for the freefall you might experience when the copycats show up and you are (perceived as) nothing more than them and your prestige has disappeared.
If you’re a copycat (even a fast one), any advantage you may have had in adopting the best’s practice, process or whatever goes down the tube and you are anonymous.
The bottom line for me is that best in class is a fleeting notion, here today, gone tomorrow adding no long term value to either the possessor of the title or the pursuer of it.
The way out of this dilemma is pretty simple: find your own way and seek your own truth in terms of providing amazing solutions people will consume at profit levels owners are delighted with.
Sure, be curious as to how others have approached the same issue you are currently facing, but use their expertise as fodder to impose your own unique fingerprint on it rather than copy it blindly.
And never stop innovating because the herd is on your tail and they want to not only catch you, they want to destroy you.