I’ve heard a lot about “best practices.” Best practices in incubation; best practices in entrepreneurship education; best practices in yadda, yadda, yadda (with apologies to Seinfeld).
Best practices are procedures generally accepted as superior to other ways of accomplishing a desired outcome because they produce optimal results or can be done more efficiently. (I pieced that explanation together using several of the 1.7+ billion entries Google gathered for “best practice.”)
But the truth is, one person’s best practices may be another person’s follies. “Best” isn’t always best. There are many variables to consider. What really makes a practice “best”?
I prefer the term “useful” practice. (It’s not as popular as “best practice,” however.)
Why do I prefer “useful” practice? Because “best,” well, depends. It depends on what you already have and do. It depends on situational issues. It depends on how you, as a team or as an individual, can really apply the practice. Or how you interpret it. Or how you can integrate it into other practices.
So, is it really “useful”? And by useful, I mean, does it serve a purpose to advance your efforts, support your cause, move you ahead?
A truly “best” practice to me is somewhat easily integrated into what you are doing already. If it takes a ton of effort or change to use it, you won’t. Your staff won’t. Your clients won’t.
If it takes eight other practices to make it work, is it really “best”? Or is it a composite practice of practices (so to speak), a system of practices that, when functioning together in a specific setting, truly “work” — and yours may not BE that specific setting! And so on…
So what truly makes a USEFUL practice?
I like to ask others what really works for them — and what doesn’t. Asking people (particularly those in incubation — they do so well at sharing) seems to really give me that “useful” information I need, more than reading articles, books, journals, etc.
I ask people who do something like I do — or like my clients do. They offer more relevant insight. It gives me solid information I can use NOW.
I can ask questions on specificities: How does it work? Why does it work? What’s the situation you have where it works? Why do you think it worked for you? What was the result? How did you measure success?
Having a true metric of success, an objective way to measure effectiveness, is a big deal. Too many “best practices” seem to be theoretical, without a true end point or measure of success. To be “best” and be final, you need a firm measure of “usefulness” at the end of the day. What is it? And can you simply show it to others?
Sure, not everything is simple. Some systems are complex; some efforts require multiple practices. Understood. But integrating a successful concept/practice/skill/idea shouldn’t be overly painful.
It should take some effort; it may be corrective; it may be different. But it should be USEFUL — and who knows — it may turn out to be the BEST thing you ever did. Or, at the least, better!
Mark S Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues. UF Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the lab to the market, making the world a better place.
Originally published at the IncubatorBlogger on January 26, 2021.