Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Copycats - "Use What Works" principle in action

"Imitation is the sincerest of flattery." ~ Charles Caleb Colton

Harvard Business Review's got a podcast series that talks about (you guessed it) business and management ideas as well as some of the books recently published in the field.

In his HBR podcast, Oded Shenkar talks about his latest book Copycats: How Smart Companies Use Imitation to Gain a Strategic Edge.

I think he does a great job of redeeming the concept of being a "copycat" - something that often has negative connotations of unfairly taking advantage of someone else's sweat and labour.

So when is imitation OK...and when it is just a blatant rip-off?

Take Shenkar's example: he stirs it up a little by stating that Apple, usually thought of as an avant-garde innovator, is actually an imitator in many ways. Apple's value-add comes from improved user-friendliness and intuitive of course the aesthetics and geek-tech-wow-factor.

Therein lies the difference. Imitation is ripping-off when it fails to add value and improve upon the concept being imitated.

After all, it's natural: children learn through imitation. And of course it's true, "there's nothing new under the sun." Progress results not when we waste time reinventing the wheel but when we creatvely apply a principle that lies at the heart of a solution-focused approach - "Use What Works" - with the intelligent addition of "...and make it work better!"

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