Breaking Bad Habits: Why Best Practices Are Killing Your Business

Breaking Bad Habits: Why Best Practices Are Killing Your Business

by Freek Vermeulen


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Have you ever wondered why most newspapers are so large? Or why management consultants work such long hours? Or why hotels still insist on having check-in desks? Ask anyone in these industries, and their answer will be the same: "That's the way we've always done it."

"Best practices" may be widespread, but that doesn’t mean they're effective. In many instances the opposite is true: best practices can be outdated, harmful, and a hindrance to innovation. These bad practices are all too common in organizations, and managers and executives can be blind to their pernicious effects. Since they've worked in the past, or have been adopted with success by other firms, their purpose or effectiveness is rarely questioned. As a consequence, these practices spread and persist.

In Breaking Bad Habits , Freek Vermeulen, a strategist with a keen eye for the absurd, offers the tools to identify these practices and rid them from your organization. And, most of all, he presents a compelling case for how eliminating popular but outworn ideas, processes, and strategies can create new opportunities for innovation and growth.

Brimming with examples of norm-defying organizations in an eclectic range of industries—including IVF clinics, hotels, newspapers, and a famous London theater— Breaking Bad Habits will make you rethink your long-held beliefs about industry norms while encouraging you to reinvigorate your business by breaking out of the status quo.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633696822
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
Publication date: 10/30/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 1,183,665
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Freek Vermeulen is Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School. He is the first-ever winner of the school's Excellence in Teaching Award and has received various international prizes for his research on strategic management. He writes regularly for Harvard Business Review , the Financial Times , Forbes , and the Wall Street Journal , among others. In the past, the Financial Times has described him as a "rising star" and a "new management guru."

Author social media/website info:,

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction: Fertile Ground 1

Part 1 How Bad Practices Prevail

1 We're Suckers for Success 21

2 Causal Ambiguity 43

3 They Spread Quicker Than They Kill 53

Part 2 Eliminating Bad Practices

4 The Tale of the Giant Newspapers 63

5 More Than Painting a Gray Wad Green 71

6 Innovation in the Market for Employees 83

7 Ten Commandments for Identifying and Eliminating Bad Habits 97

Part 3 Reinvigorating Your Organization

8 Embrace Change for Change's Sake 129

9 Make Your Life Difficult 163

10 Balance Exploration with Exploitation 179

11 Be Varied and Selective 209

Epilogue 233

Notes 237

Index 243

About the Author 251

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