Imitate or Innovate? Both!

Big Red Car here. Another day in paradise — on Earth as it is in Texas!

So The Boss is talking to some of his brilliant CEOs and the topics of “imitation” and “innovation” come up. Interesting topics.

Imitate or innovate?

The Boss is fond of saying — “your generation didn’t invent sex” by which he means that business has been around for a long time and that what you think you may have discovered may have already have been discovered. Usually this is followed by some reference to Peter Drucker — a business wiseman from the dawn of time. [He also did not invent sex.]

The subject turns to the issue of “values” wherein one of the CEOs says his company is developing a new innovative paradigm (don’t you just love the use of the word “paradigm”?) outlining the company’s values.

The Boss says: “Do tell.” The Boss will often throw a “do tell” into a conversation when he has nothing else to say and wants the other party to keep talking.

The Boss has often offered a little booklet he has used for a long time that outlines values he has developed over 33 years of CEOing. It is not perfect. May not even be good. But it is here and now. In the cold, cruel world of “monkey see, monkey do” it is real and it is easy to get your hands on.

Vision, Mission, Strategy, Values flip book

The CEO explains his take on his new “innovative” values. It is a long explanation and it is actually quite good. Shows a lot of thought and a lot of time. Note the comment about “…a lot of time.”

They begin to compare his new, innovative values with The Boss’s pathetic little flip book and it turns out that, other than a different description or two, the new innovative values are completely subsumed in the flip book. The brilliant CEO had a copy of The Boss’s flip book but hadn’t bothered to refer to it. His prerogative, to be sure.

Which brings the Big Red Car to the point of this post — there are many things in business in which using tried and true methods are a good first step. Be careful, the “first step” concept is the big idea here. In the long run, you can change and perfect them but when you’re just starting a business learn how to imitate and “monkey see, monkey do” and keep the innovation for the development of your product or service.

Nothing in this little discussion is intended to suggest for a second not to be completely innovative in the development of your product — said that now twice for emphasis. But on the little stuff, stop re-inventing the freaking world. Stop wasting time on things you can just copy and move on. The guys and girls who invented sex did a pretty good job.

Imitate and innovate. Know when to do each. Imitate or innovate? Both.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.




2 thoughts on “Imitate or Innovate? Both!

  1. I don’t think I could come up with a value that would be considered innovative. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics was written in 350 BC. He was a heck of a lot more smarter than I am and does a pretty good describing the virtues.

    Picasso was one of the most innovative painters of all time and he is remembered as saying “good artists copy – great artists steal”.

    The great ones are comfortable recognizing that a lot of work is done for them already. Its why we read blogs like this. “Stealing” or “Imitating” is a sign of respect.

    Innovation is when you mix the knowledge of people who went before you with your own abilities.

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