Questioning Best Practices

There is still a lot of talk about best practices for digital marketing, measuring social media ROI, constructing an online brand, etc. The implicit assumption is that there are actually best practices at all. Implicit in that assumption is a related assumption that one social media or digital marketing situation is enough like others that what worked in one will be generalizeable to the others, and that the same goes for ROI situations, branding situations, etc.

I would like to throw a little monkey wrench into these assumptions, and perhaps help us to move past the desire for best practices.

I was watching Charlie Rose tonight, who was interviewing former PGA golfer turned putting coach Dave Stockton.

Right around 17:00 in the interview he said something interesting about golf advice. “..everybody wants to give their best tip…their newest tip that worked for them. I don’t think it should be that complicated.” He went on to say that “..there’s not one way to teach golf..” and “..I think the routine is the key thing. I don’t care if you use a telephone pole. I just want you to have a good routine.”

Now in case you haven’t already jumped ahead of me, here’s the kicker: Putting is one of the least complex parts of one of the least complex sports in the world.* It includes a ball, a hole, a green, some wind, some grass and perhaps even a crowd. It is certainly far less complex than baseball, or football, or basketball, or soccer, which include opponents, team strategies, time clocks, buzzers, referees, coaches, cheerleaders, bands, and a host of other dynamics. It is also far less complex than business, which includes budgets, social dynamics, market forces, team strategies, power relations, etc.

And yet even for this least complex part of a least complex game, this seasoned player and coach is suggesting that there probably are no best practices, and that even if they exist, that they are probably not worth following. Rather, that the most important factor for success is the development of a routine that works for the player’s particular situation.

What does this suggest about the desire for best practices in business, social media, digital marketing, and other more complex things i wonder?


* Notice that i am using the word “simple” here and not “easy.” Hitting a good golf drive or a putt is one of the most difficult of tasks i can think of, but it is not, strictly speaking, complex. The same goes for hitting a baseball, shooting a basketball three-pointer, and hand-setting a volleyball.


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