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In the business world, imitation gets a bad rap. We see imitating firms as ?me too? players, forced to copy because they have nothing original to offer. We pity their fate: a life of picking up crumbs discarded by innovators striding a path paved with fame and profit. In Copycats, Oded Shenkar challenges this viewpoint. He reveals how imitation?the exact or broad-brushed copying of an innovation?is as critical to prosperity as innovation. Shenkar shows how savvy imitators generate huge profits. They save not only on R&D costs but also on marketing and advertising investments made by first movers. And they avoid costly errors by observing and learning from others? trials. Copycats presents suggestions for making imitation a core element in your competitive strategy and pairing it powerfully with innovation, including: · How to select the right model to imitate · How to avoid oversimplification of a model · Which imitation strategy to use · How to prepare and execute an implementation plan Engaging, practical, and rich in company examples, Copycats unveils how to add imitation to your competitive arsenal.
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Innovation gets all the good press but the reality is that imitation is just as important as innovation—if not more so. With this in mind, companies should approach imitation in a more disciplined and systematic manner rather than leaving this to chance. In fact, if you're smart, you'll fuse innovation and imitation together to generate "Innovation" —great ideas which have already been proven to work elsewhere combined with innovative new thinking.
2If you can learn to make a conscious decision when to innovate and when to build on the capabilities which exist in the various platforms and products which are now available, you'll be far more creative and pragmatic at the same time. Don't look at imitation as an embarrassing nuisance—bring it front and center and do it with pride.
"Imitation is not only more abundant than innovation, but actually a much more prevalent road to business growth and profits." — Theodore Levitt, 1966
Some firms are reluctant to admit they imitate others but the simple reality is that you ignore imitation at your own peril. Imitation, done well, is not only consistent with innovation but is an enabler of practical innovation. To be competitive and stay that way, you need to both innovate and imitate simultaneously.
"Humans, as well as other species, have always relied on imitation to survive in a hostile environment, make tools, and outdo rivals and protagonists. They have learned not to reinvent the wheel – even before there was one. As communication and transportation have advanced, opportunities for imitation have burgeoned: globalization and technological advances have expanded the ranks of the imitators and have made imitation more feasible, more cost-effective, and much faster." — Oded Shenkar
The successful corporations started operations as imitators
The pace with which imitation is happening is accelerating rapidly. In the 1930s, it generally took about 23 years for a good idea to be widely imitated. Today, most successful products are imitated within twelve to eighteen months maximum. And similarly some of today's highly successful corporations started operations as imitators. Examples:
■ Boeing saw the de Havilland Comet at the Farnborough Air Show in 1950 and realized the future of civil aviation would be moving to jet engines. Boeing then developed its iconic 707 to compete in that market.
■ The first mainframe computer was released by Remington Rand. IBM liked what it saw and within four years had claimed market leadership in this market segment. Similarly, when IBM saw the success of the Commodore and Apple personal computers, it then released its own PC which ultimately came to have market leadership.
■ When Atari released its Pong video game in 1975, Nintendo was just one of the seventy-five imitators. Nintendo ultimately came to dominate the market that Atari built.
■ Chrysler was the first automaker to sell a minivan, with Ford and GM then following suit when consumers started buying. All three US automakers were then pushed out of the market which they had created by Honda and Toyota.
The great thing about being an imitator is that the pioneer bears the costs of figuring out how to make a viable product and seed a sizable enough market to make that product worthwhile. The imitator can save on research and development costs because no dead ends are pursued. It's also cheaper to market when customers are familiar with the product on offer. The benefit of hindsight also means that imitators can capitalize on the shortcomings of earlier generation products and come to market with something which is demonstrably better and often cheaper as well. Imitators are also aware of the need to differentiate, so it's not at all unusual for imitators to bring several models to the marketplace which offer superior features.
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