The Art of Business: Steal This Idea
Stuck in the same old business rut? Looking for new ways to attract and retain clients? Ready to climb that next step up the professionalism ladder? All these are good reasons to engage in an exercise that large companies conduct regularly -- idea larceny.
Technically it's called "best practices benchmarking." Either way, it's a formalized method of identifying successful tactics and strategies used by other companies and (and this is an important "and") modifying them to best suit your needs. Simply put: Steal the best and leave the rest.
Obviously every time you talk shop with a colleague, you're engaging in casual best practices benchmarking. But you can make the process far more valuable by extending your benchmarking in three critical ways:
- Seeking ideas from companies outside of the creative world;
- Creating a methodology for gathering, analyzing and implementing ideas;
- Using benchmarking techniques to solve specific problems or opportunities, one at a time.
Corporations have used best practice benchmarking for the longest time and have realized billions in savings and revenues in all areas of business operations and sales. You can reap even greater rewards because you're so nimble. Benchmarking can help you:
- Avoid mistakes: Often you can learn more from mistakes than from successes. Let's say, for example, that you're intrigued with the idea of running local design seminars to attract new clients. Great idea, now what are the most critical errors during implementation? You may find that seminars, indeed, help attract new clients, but that if you don't make attendance confirmation calls the day before the seminar, attendance drops precipitously. Avoiding this one simple mistake can be the difference between success and failure.
- Save money. Everyone wants to reduce costs, and by benchmarking you may find lower-cost vendors and other easy ways to save money. But you may also come upon new ways of conducting business altogether by utilizing, for example, overseas subcontractors to help with much of the tedious work that takes up your time, or using workflow software that reduces the time wasted on version control and revision management.
- Improve performance: When you look for best practices outside your business, you are raising the bar of performance and setting new standards of excellence for yourself and those who work for you, if any. You are subtly saying that excellence is the standard.
- Reinvigorate your work. A single new idea often has the effect of invigorating other efforts and can help you climb out of those business ruts we all wallow in from time to time.
Steps for Best Practices
There are four components to best practice benchmarking: study, modification, implementation, and measurement. Companies fail when they give any one of these steps short shrift. To succeed, deploy this methodology or one similar to it:
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