NEXT | Next Practices

Posted on 12/12/2009

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And to continue with my earlier post, as I have been reading a bit more Brugmann and considering some questions about ‘next practice’. In most of my work, we’re talking about ‘good practice’ or ‘best practice’. I’ve never quite liked this because I believe approaches should be customised and tailored to particular sites, communities, localities, organisations etc. Mostly that seems to means reaching a level of understanding and intimacy with a place before moving forward. It means not erasing history or experience – a point I very much appreciated from Paul Carter. Brugmann, like others, addresses the current environment of precarity and disruption. He states that “meaningful strategy starts with ‘next practices’ that are tailored to new kinds of problems and that rebuild an organization’s basic ability to act with strategic effect. Although the emerging operating environment is ill-defined and in flux, the following principles appear to be working, in practical fashion, as guides for
‘next practice’ development:

  • Shift practices from emphasis on standardized planning, control, and production to adaptive, real-time ‘solutions management’ systems.
  • Use ‘co-creation’ processes to tailor solutions to heterogeneous groups and situations.
  • Replace top-down and outside-in territorial management with bottom-up and inside-out development of new place-based systems.
  • Scale through adaptive, distributed systems (not fixed, hierarchical ones).
  • Shift focus from stabilizing external supplies, to increasing internal input productivity and primary productivity, i.e., creating self-replenishing systems.”

(It’s remiss of me to put all that in a quote, but I will work it through at a later date – please just think about this post as note taking.) I’ve heard of ‘next practice’ before – it appeals to my taste for the anticipatory, creative and evolving.

Next Practice by definition has three problems: firstly it is future-oriented; secondly, no single institution or company is an exemplar of everything that you think will happen; and third, next practice is about amplifying weak signals, connecting the dots. Next Practice is disciplined imagination.
CK Prahalad, University of Michigan


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