I was never the most creative person in high school nor can I claim to be. But I was damn good at copying a good thing when I saw one. When I was about 11, I played Everquest (World of Warcraft before World of Warcraft) and I distinctly remember competing for a championship and winning because I copied someone else’s strategy. No prior game plan – just plain biting off someone else.
The same thing happened when I got into poker. In the beginning, I was easily the biggest fish at the table and everyone took advantage of me. So what did I do? I watched others play and watched some videos online to learn how the pros did it. Then I stole their tactics and built upon them.
Some people might call this imitation or stealing, but I think it’s an expedited form of learning.
“Copying is one of the best ways of learning, growing, evaluating, and exploring. It’s a valid tool so long as we regard it as a means to an end.” – Jason Cohen, Founder of WP Engine
In terms of The Innovation Adoption Curve, only 2.5% of people are innovators. They’re defined as people that aren’t satisfied with the ‘status quo’ and are quick to adopt a new and more effective way of thinking. Chances are, like myself, you aren’t an innovator.
That’s not really that bad though, considering the next 13.5% are the early adopters – people that tend to become opinion leaders and are the next wave to change their thought processes. Chances are much greater that if you’re reading this, you’re either an innovator or an early adopter because you only need to be in the top 16% to be in one of the two groups.
It’s Not Bad To Be An Early Adopter
So you have a creative idea that builds on something from the past but you don’t think it’s completely original. That’s baloney. It’s completely fine to build upon something that’s ‘already been done’ in the past.
Just look at the following examples:
- Google – not the first search engine
- Facebook – not the first social network
- Apple’s iPad – certainly not the first tablet
Civilization has progressed by compounding on past inventions and that growth continues today. From optimizing farming to the Industrial Revolution to the creation of the first computer to the internet to what we have today, a lot of what we have is built on optimizing ‘innovations’.
Society tends to look down on people that ‘copy’, citing them as ‘unoriginal’ or ‘thoughtless’ but the truth is copying helps expedite learning and layers on creativity after the juices start flowing.
When I look at my writing, it’s really a combination of copying writing styles that I like. I look at Seth Godin and I think to myself ‘wow, he’s so brief but effective’.
Then I look at posts on Buffer’s blog and love the use of data.
I like VC Tomas Tunguz’s posts because they’re short yet provide more insight than a lot of startup posts that I read.
There’s nothing wrong with copying others. It accelerates both learning and creativity and before you know it, you’ll have something completely original. And when you start to feel that you’re losing that creative touch again? Look around and start copying again.
Rinse and repeat.
Image credit: bettyx1138How To Be Creative By Copying Others First by Eric