Copy others

copy3.001Most everything I’ve done I’ve copied from someone else. Sam Walton

All good ideas are borrowed; all great ideas are stolen. (I’m being a bit facetious with that statement, but not by much.)

There are few original ideas. Even things that seem unique and proprietary are most likely simply the combination of, or reorganizing of, existing elements, or the next iteration. Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things.”

Of course, copyrights and patents must be respected and proper attributions given, but 99% of the world’s knowledge is public domain. (That percentage is a wild guess on my part.)

There’s no need to reinvent the pancake.

  • Before you start a new business, visit successful companies similar to what you intend to do and learn from them.
  • If you’ve been in business for years but need to hit the refresh button, observe what others are doing and borrow that which is beneficial.
  • Intentionally study organizations that are dissimilar to yours (perhaps in an entirely different industry) and look for ideas that will transfer.
  • Continuously ask for people’s opinions and input.

Most entrepreneurs are not inventors; they are good spotters. They notice what’s working elsewhere and adapt it to their environments.

Most good ideas are spotted “along the way”—that’s why we must intentionally and continuously “roam the earth” with our eyes and minds open, searching for things we can borrow. Read, travel, visit unfamiliar environments, talk to fully alive people; get out of your dog runs and strike out on a new path, all the while, looking for transferable ideas.

Original ideas are overrated and scarce. Existing ideas are numerous, available, and already vetted.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

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10 Replies to “Copy others”

  1. Don, great article! I just finishing my first patent and I didn’t invent anything, I just noticed three ideas being used in dissimilar industries and combined them for amazing results in my industry. I have 3 more I’m working on that occurred the same way. Almost all new industry paradigm shifts come from other industries. If we learn to think in analogies we can learn to see how one concept can be applied to unrelated industries. Einstein and Edison both thought this way. Really good stuff, thanks for challenging my creative juices.

    1. Brandy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I like your use of the word “analogies”; it helps us spot transferable concepts between industries. Congratulations on your first patent – the first of many. I have fond and grateful memories of our friendship. Don

  2. This is how I started by business in the early 1980’s.
    I read the idea in “Think and Grow Rich.”
    So can we say even this blog is full of “borrowed” ideas?
    This challenge is to keep doing it after 34 years of business.
    A great reminder.

    1. Dan, I remember reading Think and Grow Rich; it impacted many people. And, yes, my blog is comprised of other people’s thoughts, spliced together by Don. Take care

  3. It is humbling to think that at one time being “copied” by someone else in your field was considered the highest compliment. I still think that limitations are most often the best provokers of creative ideas. If the sky’s the limit, who can compete with the sky. But if you are limited to a small canvas it takes creativity to reproduce a “sky” that is believable. If “money is no object” one is tempted to overdress a weak subject. The Greek root word of plagiarism is “kidnapper.” While not advocating real kidnapping there are many cases of talented people that needed to be snatched from their original environment to become the creative success they are now remembered for. What would the New Testament be without the Old from which it strategically borrows. (WARNING:IF YOU REPRINT THIS COMMENT WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM ME I WILL SUE YOUR PANTS OFF!)

    1. As ever, Paul, your thoughts are notable. I just finished reading that limiting a person’s space actually does promote creativity – so you are right. Take care.

  4. Thanks Don! Thought-provoking as usual. Sometimes when looking at some existing thing and asking, “What’s like this that isn’t this?” the concept can be transferred to another field. Supposedly by looking at the holes in Swiss cheese and asking this question inventors came up with the Picture-in- picture concept for TV.

    1. Steve, I like that question, “What’s like this that isn’t this?’ It is now firmly lodged in my mind. Thanks for writing. Don

  5. Yep you’ve got it about right. Strange though how people will struggle to do something their own way when there is someone just around the corner who can tell them a tried and tested method.

    I’m an ideas person and love to see anything improved. Try picking up a pre-booked car hire at an airport. Does it really have to be that difficult and time consuming?

    1. Angela, You’re right, sometimes it’s pride that keeps us from asking others “what works for you?” All ideas can be improved upon when we tap into the wisdom of others Thanks for writing. Don

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