Rather than start with best practices, you should find your industry's worst practices and look for ways to better them – that's the argument put forward by Umair Haque on his HBR.org blog.
Haque insists that you can find worst practices everywhere once you learn how to spot them. He says they are "baked into the tired, toxic assumptions of business as usual".
The author offers the examples of customer service nightmares, lowest common denominators and marketing by half-truth.
Haque offers the following four tips on finding your worst practices:
1) Ask your critics. Although he says the majority of companies have been taught to crush their critics, they are actually more valuable than management consultants and pundits – and the harsher the better.
2) Spend a day in the trenches. Haque says: "Want to discover what really sucks about your distribution, marketing, pricing, service, partners, or products? When you're in the boardroom, a dozen yes-men can cook up a billion excuses – but when you're the one doing the above, there's no escaping the truth."
3) Examine your past. The author promises that by looking back and examining what made you successful, you can discover what you lost and when you lost it – but most importantly why you lost it.
4) Diet on your own dogfood. Haque has a hunch that "if fast food execs could only eat fast food, if bankers could only invest in their own toxic securities, and if pharma execs had to swallow a handful of their own pills every morning, the economy might not be so riddled with toxic, self-destructive junk".
So to identify your worst practices, he suggests that what you make should be part of the fabric of your own daily life.