What can be better than being a professional copycat? An amateur copycat just copies, but the professional copies and refines. Very few ideas are brand new; they’re just older ideas that are joined with new ones and tuned to work better, faster, louder, slower, higher than users are used to. I have listed some very successful products and brands below; not one was actually first with the innovation;
- Spotify was not the first digital music service
- Skype was not the first free voice-over-internet service
- Instagram was not the first image community
- iPod was not the first music player
Very often you hear that the “company that is first has greater advantage…”. The reason behind this is that they can set up their manufacturing faster and create a community of consumers. And these companies are also seen as real inventors, adding new value to the market.
Imitators are seen as the bad boys. They don’t think themselves; they merely copy.
But the secret is to imitate other products and make them more appealing. Being able to do that is being able to think innovatively, differently, in a more daring manner, and to understand new user behavior and technology enablers.
Being an inventor from scratch is a far riskier and more capital intensive business than being the one that can move an existing commodity from good to excellent.
There are copycats in many industries. The supermarket is a good example, with own-label products that ape well-known brands. Fashion and interior are other good examples of this phenomenon.
Of course, no one wants to admit to being copycat as its bad for your ego and can entail a legal risk. We all know about the constant legal friction between Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Google. But you can imitate safely, one trick being, of course, not to grab the innovator’s customers.
My advice is to always have your copycat glasses on and think how you can refine and evolve existing solutions on the market. Please bear in mind that many profitable innovations that have evolved from an existing technology or user behavior.
- Previously, you could buy CDs on the Internet; today, with Spotify you can stream music
- Previously, you used a telco provider’s network to make phone calls; today, with Skype you can dial for free over Internet
- Previously, you used an expensive digital camera and mailed the pictures; today, with Instagram you add picture effects and share through the cloud
- Previously, you listened on one CD at a time; today, with an iPod you bring the whole world of music with you wherever you go.
- Previously, you had ERP systems; today, with IFS Applications you….
IFS didn’t invent ERP, but we know how to let business applications evolve from “forced to have software” to “want to have software”. By working close to customers, we ensure that design and technology are in full harmony. With IFS Labs, where the real software geeks are, we make sure to develop the solutions that you still don’t know you will be looking for in the future—like augmented reality and gesture-based interfaces.
Look what Samsung was first with—voice and motion control for TV. So, logically you would ask how that type of navigation would fit business applications. We have already started thinking…I’ll be back in a while.