De-contextualising competence:: Can business best practice be bundled and sold?

Jonathan Wareham, Han Gerrits

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The study of Business Best Practice (BBP) currently enjoys broad popularity amongst IT-based consultancies as well as the academic community. Unfortunately, despite the growth of practice, BBP lacks sound theoretical foundations. This paper addresses the shortcomings of current best practice benchmarking literature and offers a first step towards a more solid foundation for the study of BBP. We begin by surveying current normative trends in benchmarking and BBP literature. We continue by examining a group of BBP cases and show how these prescriptions can become quite problematic and complex when transferring knowledge across organisations, industries, institutional environments, and cultures. In illustrating these challenges, we form a context for a critical evaluation of BBP's underlying assumptions. Explicitly addressing these assumptions opens an avenue for analysing the epistemological challenges in identifying and defining 'best practice'. Concluding that apart from the identification of 'best practice', the mechanisms of best practice knowledge acquisition and co-ordination are of interest, we turn to contemporary economic 'theories of the firm', showing where these concepts do - and do not - provide guidance and foundations for the study of the accumulation and management of 'best practice' knowledge. Based upon the epistemological challenges, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of existing theory, we synthesise our argument by formulating premises and practical guidelines for the practice of BBP transfer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-49
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Management Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1999
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'De-contextualising competence:: Can business best practice be bundled and sold?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this