Business surveys by reputable organisations such as IBM, Boston Consulting Group, PwC and others inevitably come to the same conclusion that innovation is critical for business growth and profits. Yet, only 4% of CEOs have actually put in place a system of innovation for their organisation. They are hesitant to embrace innovation out of failure and uncertainty.

In IBM’s last three global CEOs studies, CEOs consistently said that coping with change was their most pressing challenge. In the IBM CEO Study 2010, CEOs pronounced Creativity as the most important leadership attribute. The most creative business leaders have a system of innovation. However, innovation carries high risk and ties up the company’s resources like money, time, logistics and possibly expensive equipments.

These CEOs are constantly looking for a less risky way. Now, the look is over. The solution is Copycat Innovation.

What is Copycat Innovation?

Copycat Innovation is about adapting a proven solution to come out with an innovation, thereby minimizing risk and optimizing success. In short, it is about taking what works best and improving on it.

Copycat Innovation is not about a full-scale imitation of an existing product, service or process. Creativity and innovation are required. It has a structured methodology.
Copycat Innovation does not challenge copyright. Nor does it involve patent infringement. Copycat Innovation takes advantage of R&D carried out earlier and involves the borrowing and developing of existing products, services, marketing systems and technologies to carve a competitive niche in the marketplace.

By applying a 7-step Copycat Innovation process, you could eliminate the fears and frustrations of that minimises risk and optimises success by making what works well even better.

Why Copycat Innovation?

Coming out with ‘breakthrough ideas’ and ‘completely new’ innovations is both tempting and glamorous. After all, success could mean market domination. However, such a strategy carries big risks. Moreover it usually demands massive efforts and resources. It is an activity that is complex, costly, and quite often shows very little promise of a return on investment. Work on the successor of the successful product has to start immediately. This means that the successive research budget must be increasingly higher than the original innovation. Examples of this approach are Intel, 3M and P&G.

With globalisation and the advent of the Internet, there is an easier, simpler and proven new path to minimising risk and optimising success. This path is termed “Copycat Innovation”. Examples of this approach are Apple in developing the iPod, iPhone and iPad series of products, Samsung’s business strategy and banking.

The fact is this approach is not new. It has been carried out by countless successful companies and organisations. But no one had given it a generic name until now. After doing extensive research, I named this approach Copycat Innovation and have developed a 7-step methodology for Copycat Innovation, a methodology that taps into the awesome power of the Global Brain via the Internet.

In short, Copycat Innovation offers probably the best approach for your organisation in sustaining and growing your competitiveness and strategic positioning in the market-place because it is:

* Simple to implement
* Low risk, as you are adapting or refining a proven solution
* Low-cost, as the research and development work has already been done for you
* Requires much less resources including people, time,money and efforts
* A fast-track route to commercialisation
* It is legal and ethical

Examples of Copycat Innovation

* Apple: Apple launched the iPad in 2010 by refining and adapting technologies from many sources. For example, the first Tablet computer was built by Microsoft in 2001. MIT created the Touch Screen technologies and the hand motion systems for flipping pages or moving screens. Of course, Apple introduces many innovations to the iPad too.

* Samsung: Samsung founder Lee Kun-hee’s formula of being the first in the market with a copycat product when there’s a new opportunity has helped turn Samsung into a top global brand over the past decade or so, boasting a market value of $143 billion, bigger than Intel and Hewlett Packard and equal to the combined value of Sony Corp, Nokia, Toshiba and Panasonic Corp. This is because being an original innovator and creating a new market requires lots of risk and takes a long time to achieve profitable results.

* Franchising: Franchising is a systematic form of Copycat Innovation. According to the United States Chamber of Commerce statistics, franchised businesses have a 97% success rate within 5 years of opening, whereas non-franchised businesses have a, comparatively low, success rate of 48% in their first 6 years.

* McDonalds: White Castle’s founders, Walt Anderson and Billy Ingram, are widely credited with inventing both the hamburger and the fast-food business. However, its copycat follower McDonalds, the world’s largest fast-food chain, through its marketing innovation makes a much greater success of its hamburger fast-food business.

The 7-Step Methodology to Copycat Innovation

The 7-step process for Copycat Innovation that delivers a measurable results-driven (KPIs) fast-track innovation by tapping into the awesome power of the global brain is as below:

1. Identifying the Core issue;
2. Taking the Michelangelo approach;
3. Making the best better;
4. Innovating the wheel;
5. Selling the Copycat Innovation;
6. Implementing the Copycat Innovation;
7. Recognition and Celebration.


Fastcompany and Businessweek magazine have acknowledged Apple as the most innovative company in the world. It is also probably the world’s most proficient copycatter. Steve Jobs, Apple founder and CEO openly admitted as such during one of his presentations. He said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

In his much reviewed new book, “Copycats: How Smart Companies Use Imitation to Gain a Strategic Edge “published by the Harvard Business Publishing, Prof Oded Shenkar cited a study over a period from 1948 to 2001 which found that 97.8% of innovation value goes to the imitators! He calls it imovation (Imitation+innovation) which is exactly what Copycat Innovation is all about.

You can get a headstart on this by requesting for a free copy of the report “Copycat Innovation- the unbeatable ethical route to profitable Innovation” by sending a request email to:

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