This Is When Copying Can Be Useful

For my regular reader, you’re undoubtedly sick over my relentless chant about the folly of copying others; following in someone else’s footsteps with the hopes that you will reap untold benefits.

Copying to gain a strategic advantage is not ok

I’ve said repeatedly that copying best in class is for the weak and lazy; that it’s an easy disguise for innovation and that as long as you’re in the hunt to benchmark someone else you give yourself permission not to be creative and innovate.

Copying is the antithesis of strategic innovation. Period.

I guess it’s due to my current state of chronological impairment, that I now offer somewhat of a contrarian view to my previous thesis. It doesn’t supplant my anti-copying rants, however, it merely defines an exception to the rule.

Copying to improve operations efficiency is ok

The exception is: copying for operations improvements is ok as long as you realize they are not contributing to a strategic advantage in any way whatsoever.

This is a critical piece of thinking. If you are looking for efficiency gains than go ahead and find a best practices organization that has top notch returns from their processes and copy them. But don’t for a moment think you’re going to improve your competitive position because that’s not on.

How can you gain any advantage strategically by doing what someone else does? You can’t, regardless of what anyone says.

But you can improve your operating margins within the strategy you have, and that’s a good thing. A ho-hum strategy with improved margins is better than one with skinny ones (but don’t kid yourself, you’re only putting off the inevitable if you’re not the ONLY ones that do what you do).

So here’s my suggestion for my reader who is infatuated with copying because it’s easy and they’re lazy.

Start with a strategic game plan that sets you apart

First, develop a strategic game plan that will separate you from the herd of competitors you face and make you unapproachable in the markets you serve, and THEN, go ahead and fill your boots on adopting as many best practices you can that will enable you to execute your ONLY strategy with maximum efficiency.

Success is a healthy blend of strategic wisdom + operating efficiency that yields a higher level of performance than your peers.

If you are a copycat to try and dominate your competition, DON’T.

But if you reserve your copycat tendencies and apply them to HOW you get the strategic job done, DO.

Related: The One Thing You Need to Know About Success