There’s a pattern in business in which an original, breakthrough idea is launched to great fanfare success; then it’s copied repeatedly by the pack of followers. As a result of copy-cat innovation, many industries are swimming in a sea of sameness.
The airline industry, for example, is full of me-too players whose offerings are virtually indistinguishable from each other. The same holds true for soft drinks, big-box retailers, computers, boy bands, and hotel chains: an arms race of replication that lacks meaningful innovation.
The world of coupons was also a commodity until my friends at GROUPON broke the mold. The company offers its members a single, special, ultra-discounted coupon per day and the coupon is only activated when enough people buy it. Collective buying power meets social media meets couponing. This radically different approach propelled the company to become the fastest growing company in US history. After only 18 months in business, the company was publicly valued at over $1.2 billion.
Of course, dozens of companies are now trying to copy GROUPON (unsuccessfully). Rather than doing something remarkable on their own, they play the childhood game of follow-the-leader and wonder why this lemming strategy fails to reach any meaningful success.
Business schools teach us to use careful analysis to reduce costs and increase efficiency, while true innovators are busy changing the world. They realize that creativity, imagination, and original thought have become the currency for success in the new era of business (and life).
Frankly, the world doesn’t need another “me-too” anything. The world craves breakthrough ideas and daring invention. The history books are reserved for people who changed the game, not those that improved margin by 3% or reduced defects by .07%.
The good news is that you have a choice. You can follow the herd, play it safe, and copy others or you can unleash your true creativity and do something bold and unique. Drive instead of ride. Create instead of do. Lead instead of follow. Invent instead of copy.
When you take a stance and explore the possibilities, the creative act will flood you with inspiration and fulfillment. Be daring and courageous. Let your imagination soar. And the next time a colleague suggests a copy-cat move, stand up boldly and proclaim, “ME TOO NO MORE!”