It's early morning, and you're sitting around the cave contemplating the group's need for nutrition. You know you have to go out and hunt today, and maybe pick some berries if you can find them. However, only a few days ago Bob walked off a cliff, and last week Bill was bitten by a bear trying to get some honey. What to do? It doesn't seem safe out there.

Better have a look at the cave drawings and carvings made by Roger. He was out yesterday and brought back plenty of fresh kill—something he seems to be doing a lot lately. Maybe his petroglyphs can shed some light on things.

It Works in Marketing, Too

Do best practices give you an advantage in devising marketing strategies and executing tactics? Yes, they do. Not only will the empirical knowledge represented in best practices protect you from the mistakes made by others, but using them as a baseline will also allow you to come up with sharper strategies and better results.

Few people would argue that a pilot should give up his preflight procedure in favor of a creative session, but there are those who argue that marketing professionals should always start from scratch and make their own mistakes, even if the exact same mistakes have been made a thousand times before. Why?

Is there something about soft-skill disciplines that requires the practitioner to make his own mistakes? Does a marketing strategy become more effective if devised by novices? Not likely.

In fact, recent research in the cognitive sciences demonstrates the value of best practices in soft-skill disciplines. One study at Northwestern University found that participants consistently achieved a higher monetary outcome (9% on average) when they negotiated according to a specific procedure.

The procedure? Negotiating contingencies rather than applying the more common strategy of "cutting the baby in half." The contingency strategy represents a best practices procedure that allows for more creative solutions at the time of need—during the negotiations—which in turn yields higher monetary outcomes. This strategy also represents a best practices procedure in which the practitioner is given creative freedom so that she can claim ownership of the results.

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Evan Berglund is CEO of EduCel (