Can imitation mean innovation?

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With small business owners struggling in these recessionary times and many plunging into debt and being forced into bankruptcy, it would seem reckless to encourage new ideas for products and services.

Essentially, if you are going to start implementing new products and services, you’re in effect starting a new business. But then it can be said that when you pursue and secure a customer with any product or service you are actually in business.

Many people are being forced into creating a business of their own because of losing their jobs. This week we have seen how Pioneer Foods is retrenching 1,500 senior and middle managers, 10% of their 15,000 employee complement.

The chances of finding employment in this job market are challenging. Some with specialised skills will be highly marketable. Others may retire early. A small number who may want to release their inner entrepreneur despite facing the emotional turbulence that comes with retrenchment (as I found out myself working once for a food company) may well transform what they were doing at a company into a personal service or come up with a new product.

All over the world self-employment has increasingly become primarily a necessity for financial survival rather than a lifestyle choice as it was more so in better times.

Faced with such prospects, would it be better to start something completely new, something that has never been tried before?

A new product or service requires finding a specialised niche market that may not exist. Being first to do something requires expensive educating of consumers. It takes shiploads of cash to educate customers about a new product or service. And in today’s tight markets customers are highly sceptical about any new bright and shiny object that is going to solve all their problems.

The truth is that while start-ups and large companies are hellbent in finding groundbreaking new products and services, many successful businesses were – it’s hard to say this but it’s true when you see the studies – imitators or copycats.

The thought of being an imitator is repulsive for many. Especially when they’ve been taught to believe that imitation is something that animals, children and – can you believe how repugnant this erroneous belief is – the mentally impaired do. However, just consider how important imitation is to the survival of human beings and animals. Scientists tell us that imitation is a complex process that requires intelligence and advanced mental capabilities.

Here’s a more important case for creativity in imitation:

Do you think anyone can go and copy or duplicate a product or service and expect to be successful?

They would be damned stupid. Firstly, there are laws against outright copying. Then copying can’t be done just like that because the original company’s product may have its revenue model, manufacturing process and supply chain largely hidden – and make no mistake they usually are.

If you are one of the tight band of people who wish to pursue their own product service regardless, then you need to make sure that you know about this innovation accelerator that takes your idea from viability testing to market planning and commercialisation. Use your creative energies to go take a look here.

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