Copycat Innovation, Karaoke Capitalism, Imitation Economics: Dare to Be Different or Play the Imitation Game…

Innovate or Imitate: Take a stand, dare to be different… Business is all about choices, decisions, expectations, and you face options daily when you must– dare to change, dare to be different, or sing the same song… But you live in the world of the karaoke–where most of the time you are imitating someone else, you are singing a song written by some else; this is what happens in capitalism too…

According to Jonas Ridderstróale and Kjell Nordstróm who wrote the book ‘Karaoke Capitalism’ say; the philosophy of imitation is engrained in the corporate mindset… The only way to survive is to chuck convention, to embrace your company’s individual personality and promote it through everything you do, constantly honing what works and abandoning what doesn’t… But even here there is still a sense of uneasiness that ‘playing it safe’ could just be another phrase for ‘heading toward business oblivion’…

Competing in a world of karaoke capitalism is about daring to be different, it’s about writing the songs of the future and not focusing on the tunes of the past… there is a new reality for most corporations– its innovation… But are you taking the wrong route to innovation, is there a better way… consider; ‘copycat innovation’…

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Copycat innovation is about adapting a proven solution to create another innovation, thereby minimizing risk and optimizing success. In short, it’s about taking what works best and improving it… It’s about measurable, result-driven, fast-track innovation, which optimizes success by minimizing risks, time, resources…

According to Prof Oded Shenkar; the best and most efficient route to innovation is not just imitation or copying, but copycat innovation, and cites a study over a period of more than 50 years which found that 97.8% of innovation value goes to the imitators, and only 2.2% goes to the pioneer innovator who carried great risks… According to Harvard Business Review; imitation is under-valued; it can be a more important growth factor than innovation. Imitation is not mindless repetition; it’s an intelligent search for cause and effect… After all; new ideas (innovation) = old thinking put together in novel ways…

In the article Karaoke Capitalism: Daring to Be Different in a Copycat World by Jonas Ridderstrale, Kjell A. Nordstrom writes: To succeed in business, you must ‘dare to be different’… In the world of karaoke capitalism, success is not about getting a back-stage pass; following the rules is merely an imitation of life. Only imagination, authenticity places you on front-stage. And the future, as always, belongs to those at the ‘frontier’…

No matter how talented you are in a karaoke bar, you are going to end up being a pale copy of an original… you must realize that it’s better to be a first-rate version of yourself, rather than a second class copy of someone else… This brand of business philosophy says companies can only achieve success if they think, act… differently from the competition…

The trouble with business is that the karaoke club is home to institutionalized imitation: Copy-cats abound. Only imagination and innovation place business on center-stage… The sad truth is that business schools and the quest for the established best practice only transforms the world of commerce into a super-group of karaoke copying companies. And imitating someone else will never get you to the top– but merely to the middle…

Businesses are being re-shaped by the forces of individualism and information technology revolution; and these changes have made abnormal the new normal. In reality, the important shift is not the one leading you into a bubble economy, but the one bringing you into a double economy; a place with increasing differences between the ‘best’ and the ‘rest’. Here, a flourishing middle-class and mass-markets are on the list of endangered species…

Hence, forget about appealing to the average– success is about exploring ‘extremes’. Modern companies are facing the prospects of a two-front war: held hostage by talent and under siege by customers. To thrive, organizations must master the arts of capitalizing on competencies and customer creation… But old solutions no longer work: In a world of economic Darwinism, survival is a question of being ‘fit or sexy’, which is competing on models and moods. Fitness boils down to using market imperfections to advantage in developing unique business model. Masters of mood exploit imperfections of people by seducing or sedating customers. Excellent companies accept no imitations; bound by no limitations…

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In the article Good at Copying Is At Least As Important As Being Innovative by The Economist writes: In the real world, companies copy and succeed. According to Oded Shenkar; the pace and intensity of legal imitation has quickened in recent years, for example; among the social-gaming firms copying and accusations of copying, are rife. One boss is said to have told his employees: I don’t fucking want innovation. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers…

History shows that imitators often end-up as winners… Copying is not only far commoner than innovation in business, but a surer route to growth and profits… studies show that imitators do at least as well, and often better from any new product than innovators do. Followers have lower R&D costs, and less risk of failure because the product has already been market-tested…

Firms seldom admit to being copycats: First, it’s bad for egos. Second, it can be legally risky… Though copying is fairly common, lots of companies fail to do it effectively… According to Mr. Shenkar; U.S. firms, in particular, are too obsessed with innovation, as compared with Asian companies that have excelled at legal imitation… According to Joseph Schumpeter; if innovators do not get enough reward from new products because imitators were taking so much of their profit, they would spend less effort on innovating– hence, the justification for granting inventors temporary monopolies in the form of patents. But that is not the immediate concern of corporations; copying is here to stay; businesses may as well get good at it…

In the article Copycat Innovation: Practical Route to Profitable Innovation by Innovation Management writes: Are we taking the wrong route to innovation? According to Dr. Yew Kam Keong, Ph.D; copycat innovation, the act of adapting a solution that has been used successful in another industry or profession, is a more reliable and affordable route to innovation... Innovation has been touted by practically every government, political and business leader as magic bullet to cure-all the woes of economic stagnation, governance, social issues, poverty, competitiveness and every other thing you can think of.

This is well supported by the ‘media’, which gives great prominence to many innovation in business, entertainment, governance, social entrepreneurship… And, many organizations have jumped on the bandwagon, creating countless awards to– recognize, acknowledge, and bestow fancy awards for innovations… But in this relentless quest for innovation, many have forgotten or cast aside the power of imitation…

According to Drake Bennett; as invaluable as innovation may be the relentless focus on it may be obscuring the value of its much-maligned relative, i.e., imitation… Imitation has always had a faintly disreputable ring to it; presidents don’t normally give speeches extolling the virtues of the copycat. But where innovation brings new things into the world, imitation spreads them; where innovators break the old mold, imitators perfect the new one; and while innovators can win big, imitators often win bigger. Indeed, what looks like innovation is often actually artful imitation, e.g.; tech-savvy observers see Apple’s real genius not in how it creates new technologies (which it rarely does) but how it synthesizes and packages existing ones…

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What exactly is wrong about imitation? Are copycats always bad for the companies they copy? And why do we insist on treating good business ideas like works of art that should never, ever be imitated? According to Oded Shenkar; it’s like a religion; U.S. businesses have come to place an unreasonable emphasis on innovation, ignoring the fact that many great companies– for instance, Southwest Airlines, Walmart, and everyone’s beloved innovation case study, Apple– have been great imitators… To have a start-up based on imitation is almost repulsive in the U.S.; and that is ‘nuts’. As long as a company plays by the rules and does things legally, everything is legitimate. Why isn’t it legitimate to use a business model that’s been successful elsewhere in the world?

According to Steven P. Shnaars; imitation is not only more abundant than innovation, it’s actually a much more prevalent road to business growth, profitability… According to Accenture; more businesses are grabbing great ideas wherever they can get them, e.g.; elsewhere in their industries or beyond… And history shows that the true business high performers are actively creating systemic competitive advantage by elevating their imitation game…

In a world of economic Darwinism, fitness boils down to using market imperfections to your advantage. According to Adam Harvey; masters of mood exploit imperfections of people by seducing or sedating customers… Excellent companies re-invent innovation and re-energize the corporation…