Thursday, August 9, 2012

Do "Best Practices" prevent association innovation?

My dad was a pioneer in AI.

No, not artificial intelligence but artificial insemination.

He was in the "bull business."

This is an agricultural term defining that he was manager of an artificial breeding cooperative that provided bull semen so its members (dairy farmers) could artificially inseminate (AI) their cows. This science helped greatly improve the dairy industry.

Then, along came "cloning," a scientific "breakthrough" that allowed scientists to produce an exact replica of the parent.

Cloning, and embryo transplants, became the newer reproductive methods in livestock.
Several years ago, I asked dad what he thought of cloning.

His response offered pretty good advice for associations:

"If you are satisfied with what you have, cloning is great,” he said. “But, I'm striving to improve not to stay the same."

Many in our profession subscribe to the great value in best practices and are looking to various best practices for association management functions.

As I think about it; however, best practices are closely aligned with cloning .. And, as my dad would say, “They are great if you are satisfied with current practices.”

Me, I'm looking for continuous improvement and I’m not satisfied with doing things the same old way just because others are.


  1. There's one problem with the cloning analogy: you can't clone a management practice, because when you export it to a different context, it is no longer really the same practice, nor will it have the same effect. You CAN clone a cow (apparently), and the cow operates pretty much the same in Iowa as it does in Nebraska. But that's not true with copying management practices because our organizations (and their contexts) are so dynamically complex. As we say in Humanize, "best practices are evil."

    1. Thanks Jamie.

      I agree.

      But, cows, like association management, have different context (breed, geography, etc.). So "cloning" identical best practices doesnt work without some changes.

      The point, however, is the same: best practices are even because, like cloning, they assume we have improved all we can.

      BTW: for any of my readers who have not yet read Huaminize, you are missing a truly great book for our times. I urge you to get it and share it with your staff and leaders.

  2. Love the story Steve, and agree with the analogy. Here's what I wrote about the same topic in 2011.

  3. Thanks for the comment and link Adrian. I'll take a look!