The sincerest form of flattery
Over at Endless Innovation, a blog site I visit frequently, Dominic has a post discussing a presentation that was given by the founder of Geek Squad. Dominic focuses on the price an unremarkable firm pays when attempting to differentiate. We call that "advertising". I like more what the gentleman said about innovation. "If you look for ideas in your industry, you are stealing. If you steal ideas from other industries, that's innovative." Now, I have no problem with stealing a good idea or concept and applying it in a way that differentiates me or helps me make more money. However, what I wish he had said was:
- If you are copying ideas in your industry, you're a follower
- If you adopt ideas from other industries and apply them in new ways in your industry, you're an innovator
- If you package your capabilities and dramatically change another market, your a disrupter
Imitation is a simple but dangerous approach, because it places your organization on a passive footing. Simply waiting for someone else to create a good idea then rapidly copying it assumes your copy capability is the best in the industry. Actively scanning the adjoining and adjacent markets for ideas that you can adopt, and seeking opportunities for your firm to act as a disrupter, require an active footing and investment in people and resources. It will require you to enter markets quickly, without a complete risk assessment. Yet, as my military friends like to say, fortune favors the bold.
So, what's it going to be? A relatively safe and simple fast follower strategy, with little risk and little reward, or an active, aggressive strategy to seek out the best ideas from any source, and identify opportunities for your firm to act as a disrupter? Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but few leaders ever get where they are by imitating others. Rather, they create their own unique reality. Innovators aren't imitators.