Does greatness equate to eternity?

Using the practices of today’s greatest companies to guide our business strategies is something we all do.  After all, that’s why they call them "best practices."  Many spend their days analyzing each and every move of their industry leader to discover what makes them great in hopes of becoming great themselves.  Others idolize them and are convinced that every move they take is the right one.  According to Walter Kiechel, author and former Editorial Director of Harvard Business Publishing and Managing Editor at Fortune magazine, there is a concern that some are taking it too far.

In his February post, Kiechel speaks of  the myth of corporate persistence.  We all assume that the most successful companies provide "ever-instructive lessons in how to do things right."  Why not learn from the best?  "Learn from it, be like it, and you’ll be smarter, stronger, more likely to survive the tempest."  Despite the fact that "study after study has shown that exemplary corporate performance"¦doesn’t last," we’ve been conditioned to think of these great companies as heroes.  Many of us follow them blindly.  This is Kiechel’s major gripe.  "Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, authors of management books and articles continue to feed our gullibility."

Mr. Kiechel has a point.  Worshiping a corporate entity to the point where you are blindly copying their every move is not smart.  However, done in moderation, the ideas and best practices of the great companies in your space can provide a sound launch pad for testing and optimization.

Now, as far as gullibility is concerned… If your gullible enough to think that today’s most successful companies will remain the most successful forever, you may want to get something checked out.  In the mean time, refer to Kiechel’s post for a few best practices of his own on how to avoid following your heroes off a cliff.

About Drew Fortin:
Drew is responsible for strategy and execution of marketing initiatives for Compete.com, including affiliate, blog, email, lead generation, paid search, and social media. Before Compete, Drew worked for office supply giant, Staples, Inc. where he had the opportunity to manage multiple online marketing channels for Staples.com, including affiliate, SEO/SEM, and comparison shopping engines. Follow Drew on Twitter or link him on LinkedIn.