The common meaning of business practice is: “A method, procedure, process, or rule employed or followed by a company in the pursuit of its objectives.”
It’s a means to an end.
And the common denominator of all business strategies is growth. If a business isn’t growing, the end is near.
The primary drivers of growth in any organization are: the amount of true product and service innovation, the level of customer retention and a distinctive competitive claim that cuts through the clutter in the marketplace and sets the organization apart from all others.
Benchmarking, replicating a “best practice” of another organization, is at odds with these drivers of growth.
In its simplest form, benchmarking is copying what someone else is doing. It’s running from behind; trying to catch up to a performance level established by another organization.
It increases the size of the competitive herd and enhances the lowest common denominator in it.
The more organizations that copy a business practice, the more each herd member starts to look the same; differences disappear; competitive advantage is reduced.
And growth opportunities fade.
Benchmarking does not serve a growth strategy.
A copycat – even a fast copycat – can do no better than perhaps achieve some operational benefits.
But it is no further ahead in creating remarkable products, providing unforgettable customer service, offering a compelling reason why current customers should stay with them and in providing a distinctive reason why potentially new customers should do business with them and not their competition.
Copying will never produce a one-of-a-kind, and yet that is what is required to achieve growth consistently.
All too often, when confronted with a challenge people ask “What’s the recognized best practice (aka “Who should we copy?”), instead of asking “How can we achieve our goal in a way no one else has thought of?”
Put the emphasis on leading the herd not being an active member of it.
Stepping out is risky, but is far less risky than relying on emulation and replication as the basis for growing your business.
Remove copying from the bag of business practices you use to achieve your strategic game plan.
The life of a copycat never changes; get used to relegation to the bottom.
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