Imitation Strategy

In some cases an imitation strategy can almost be as effective as an innovation strategy. Copying someone else's idea by building your own version of it is quite often good business.

Research shows that approximately seventy percent of innovations are in fact copied and this number is increasing over time.

(Photo Credit: Rayan Zomorodi)

If you're adopting a strategy of imitation then the trick is not to wait for the right idea to come along instead you should be actively looking for the right idea to copy. Preferably an idea with which you have great understanding and familiarity with but this doesn't have to be the case.

Improve What You Are Copying

When you copy someone else's idea you need to be thinking about more than just a straight forward copy. Think instead about how you can make it bigger or smaller or faster or with more functionality than that which you are copying. Are you able to create the product cheaper or can you add many more features and sell it at a premium? Good imitators often make copies that are both cheaper and better.

Legal Issues?

When copying some other idea be aware of the legal issues but don't let that completely put you off. Patents provide only limited protection – they are costly and almost impossible to enforce. Patents often give a lot of information away for the imitator. Information that can be modified so that you are able to produce a similar product that doesn't violate the patent itself.

To Be Good At Imitation Strategy...

You need to first drop the stigma. Most of us are brought up in a society where we are told that copying is bad. It' something that is frowned upon and seen as not the right thing to do.

You also need to not focus too hard on the item that you are copying. An exact replica is not good and is highly likely to fail. Add something new an unique to the idea where ever possible.

If you're copying an idea used in one geographic location to a completely different one then make sure you do your due diligence. Do a bit of market research to determine if the idea will work just as well in a new location.

Successful Imitation Examples

  • Visa, Mastercard and American Express which were copies of Diners Club.
  • Internet explorer, Safari and Chrome browsers all came after Netscape Navigator.
  • Google search came after Yahoo.
  • Microsoft excel which was originally a copy of Visicalc
  • Microsoft MSDOS which was basically a copy of CPM

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