We’ve all heard that familiar quote about continuing to do something the exact same way you’ve done it in the past yet expecting a different result. It’s like a dog chasing its tail. Is your nonprofit constantly chasing elusive solutions?

Speaker colleague Stephen Shapiro is an expert on innovation. His book Best Practices Are Stupid examines why applying conventional solutions to conventional problems can be a barrier to success. Stephen's book provides action strategies for incorporating innovative thinking as a way to identify effective approaches to organizational issues. He offers three reasons why best practices are stupid.

  • Replication is not innovation. If you are copying others, you are playing a game of catch-up.
  • What works for one organization may not work for another because there may be no cultural or strategic fit.
  • Practices we label as best may not even be the reason an organization has become successful.

According to Stephen, it's often a fresh perspective that generates breakthrough solutions. New product applications (think back to sticky notes) that completely revitalize a business and generate answers to difficult problems can come from sources with no apparent connection to those struggling with a tough challenge. This requires thought, and it begins with an evaluation of current practices.

If you review a particular program or process and you find its justification is the familiar “we’ve always done it that way,” consider that to be a red flag for digging deeper into whether or not it should be continued. But be mindful; some practices may only require modification. Don’t just mindlessly toss out what’s old.

Start innovation by answering these three questions.

  • What current practices should you reconsider?
  • What new practices should you adopt?
  • Who or what resources can be a source of transformative thinking for your nonprofit?

Identify your “that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it practices.” They are holding back your “what’s-possible.”

Read the full article about innovation rather than best practices by Hardy Smith at BoardSource.