Disclaimer: In this article, the term “copy” is not a reference to the unlawful reproduction of intellectual property by way of patents, content and the like. It is used to mean implementing something similar to an existing product/service without violating any ethical or legal stipulations. Kindly note.
In business, innovation is often touted as the answer to all problems. It is human nature to want to ascribe success to one factor. However, any seasoned business person will tell you that there is an appropriate time to innovate and there is an appropriate time to copy the competition. Wisdom is knowing when to take either approach. This writer is a fan of innovation, but has seen many entrepreneurs lose the moment by rigidly insisting on innovation.
Do not make that mistake. History is replete with businesses and brands that lost a great opportunity by refusing to copy something that the competition implemented at one point in time or the other. Also, copying something that the competition has implemented does not mean becoming exactly like them. A brand can very well copy without throwing out its unique selling points and its innovative edge.
For example, if your competition introduces a new technology that enables them increase production or improve on the quality of their product, chances are that you should look into it and embrace such technology as well. Another scenario would one in which your competition introduces something that you see is clearly catching on with the market. That might be a time to shamelessly copy. And by copy, I do not mean a stealing of intellectual property. I mean that you implement something similar without violating any ethical or legal stipulations.
As a matter of fact, in some cases, you can do better than just copy. If you copy and enhance the product/service, you are innovating. But don’t be foolhardy and miss out on great opportunities by refusing an idea just because your competition came up with it first.