“Best practices lead to agreement on mediocrity. Because all of us benchmark each other, we gravitate towards mediocrity in a hurry. What we really need is to ask what is the next practice, so that we can become the benchmark companies and institutions around the world.” C.K. Prahalad, 2007
C. K. Prahalad (1941-2010) was our company founder, chairman, and mentor-in-chief.
C.K. approached three of us (Jeb Brugmann, Craig Cohon, and Yann Risz) in 2003 to ask our review of his manuscript for the pending bestseller The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. He had a further idea: to establish an advisory service for companies to help them put the arguments of his book into business practice. We established The Next Practice together in April 2004.
As a leading thinker on innovation in large and complex organizations, he had mastered his own art for organizing and coaching corporate innovation teams. The Next Practice provided a vehicle in which we could develop the master’s art into a set of methods, tools, and processes. This focus on methods allowed TNP, after just a few years of practice, to make a bold promise: that we would discover and specify an investment-worthy new product and business model, for a new market or business area, within 4-5 months’ time.
During our partnership years, C.K. remained fully active as the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan. He was a board member of NCR Corporation, Hindustan Lever, the World Resources Institute, and TiE, The Indus Entrepreneurs, and advised numerous companies. Reflecting his entrepreneurial impulse, every year he convened a private multiday session with the CEO’s of India’s largest companies to co-create a new business-driven solution for a major Indian social problem. He co-authored The New Age of Innovation with fellow U of M Ross School professor M.S. Krishnan and published numerous articles, including “Co-creating Business’ New Social Compact” with Jeb Brugmann. His focus on co-creation set the stage for today’s focus on ‘shared value’ business practices.
The company’s initial focus was on the ‘BoP’ opportunity, but C.K. had a broader interest in business’ underdeveloped potential as a force for good in the world. During our first years of practice we also collaborated on projects related to urban development and environmental sustainability.
When C.K. passed away suddenly in 2010, we had to decide whether to continue or to abandon The Next Practice venture. Brugmann re-launched the company in 2011, aiming to do so in a way that fully reflected the C.K.’s legacy and mentorship. As a result, TNP today
- Remains a methods-driven practice.
- Seeks opportunities in the convergence between industries and different sectors, often developing investment-worthy propositions through co-creation between atypical partners.
- Focuses particularly on opportunities associated with the emergence of billions from poverty; with the shift from the 20th century economics of resource extraction to a 21st century economics of resource production and productivity; with the potential to better customize and optimize urban locations and systems.
- Takes risks and makes its own investments to develop the next generation of ‘next practices’