Best Practice Glossary or Buzzword Bingo?

If you are a fan of buzzword bingo you might be in for a treat. I think I’ve stumbled upon a new subset of buzzwords for a bingo card on best practice phrases.

In the post ‘Is Best Practice the Enemy of Innovation?’ I suggesting that we (particularly those with significant power or influence) should be careful about how the phrase ‘best practice’ is used. Fine advice, but where do you look for the right phrase for the right conversation or conference speech?

In the spirit of sharing (and creating a new bingo card), here are my top eight ‘practice’ buzzwords. I am sure there are plenty more. If you’ve got any please let me know, we could have a huge new bingo card.

Notable Practice. I haven’t heard this one for a while. I’ve seen it used where people wanted to draw attention to something as ‘notable’, but didn’t want to take any responsibility for making a judgment that might land them with any sort of liability. “Is it good practice or is it bad practice?”  “I can’t really say. It’s just……errr….notable”.

Effective Practice. This one has a significant degree of judgment attached. The word effective suggests that the practice works and does what it was intended to do, effectively. Helpfully it leaves scope for things to get better.  The Youth Justice Boards use effective practice in connection with case studies, the definition is here.

Emerging Practice. This is a bit of a specialist term I’ve heard used in connection with complex situations where a great deal is unknown. Practice will emerge from the complexity, which can then be evaluated and amplified or dampened as necessary.  The challenge is to identify the emerging practice and then evaluate it. Here is the Youth Justice Board definition.

Innovative Practice. This is always a certainty for buzzword bingo, thrown around like confetti in conference speeches. Superficially it sounds very plausible and appealing, but what do people mean? I’d suggest a close look at the definition before using it. Things like is this ‘new’ and not ‘the same things done better’ need to be considered.

Bad Practice. A much neglected area, high score for ‘rarity value’ on the bingo card. People don’t really like to talk about what went wrong. If we do it’s quite often in the in the negative language of ‘name and shame’ the guilty. Not really helpful in getting people to come forward and help others learn from mistakes and failure. It’s a phrase in need of an image makeover if we want to make the most of some valuable learning.

Better Practice. I like the idea of this, but better than what? This would require a bit of context information to show why this practice is better than something else. Linking back to the bad practice example, I don’t suppose many people would be overjoyed at being associated with the practice that has just been ‘bettered’.

Good Practice. A term that is in everyday use.People seem to be in general agreement about its meaning, but there is no dictionary definition I can find. It’s a bit like ‘baby bear’s porridge’ in the Goldilocks fairy tale. Not to hot or not too cold, just right. By that I mean this practice is not, ‘the best’ or ‘the single benchmark’ so it leaves room for improvement, and an opportunity to look at alternatives.

Best Practice. This is well-defined in many places. “A method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark….. a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use”. A very specific definition, particularly if you compare it with some of the others mentioned.

With the range of ‘practice’ definitions on offer it’s well worth thinking about how you describe what you do. It’s all context specific. There is a huge difference between emerging practice, best practice and effective practice. Unfortunately they tend to get lumped into a ‘one size fits all’ category far too often. Not helpful for the buzzword bingo enthusiast.

So what’s the PONT?

  • There are a large number of ways to describe ‘practice’, it’s not ‘one size fits all’.
  • To avoid confusion understanding the context of the practice is required so that the practice can be accurately described.
  • If in doubt use something that leaves room for improvement. The ‘baby bear’s porridge’, Good Practice option isn’t bad.

Don’t forget your suggestions for the bingo card.

Picture Source: Buzzword Bingo App.

Just for Hel Reynolds. Even cats have go into best practice bingo, online obviously.

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

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