Benchmarking or tyranny of the average?

A few years ago, we were talking about good practice to qualify the advanced expertise that we could find among our peers or our competitors to inspire us, to copy or improve them. Through this, we tried to accelerate our progress in mastering all activities and business processes.

Then, benchmarking arrived, fuelling the cohort of concepts and buzzwords that we are used to empty methodically and thoroughly of their meaning to make unnecessary or even counter-productive concepts.

I often observed that more complex is a project, more teams, that are in charge of these projects, use these obscure concepts to hide their inability to address the challenges of the project said; this situation is common in the field of Smart Cities and Smart Grids.

Benchmarking is no longer then, a review of best practices by which we want to be inspired (it is sometimes difficult and premature to assess the best practices in an emerging or exploratory domain) but a list of some achievements (without stepping back on their actual performance) we wish simply to copy.

Therefore, benchmarking is no longer a tool for innovation or progression but a method inevitably imposing the tyranny of the average.

In the field of Smart Cities and Smart Grids, I tend to recommend a very cautious use of benchmarking; the experience cumulated around the world to date is just sufficient enough to judge the good local adaptation of the proposed solutions. Often a successful blend of analytical, in-depth understanding of the needs, confidence in the ability of teams to structure the design and management of projects is much more effective.

The comfort and security sought through benchmarking, to avoid facing unexplored issues are rarely met. Engage in Smart Cities or Smart Grids projects requires courage, humility and team work. This is also what makes them so difficult and so exciting at once.

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