We are taught from a young age that copying someone is bad. As children, we complained, “they’re copying me”. And this carries over into adulthood. But is copying really bad or are there times where it is okay. And what really counts as copying?

First, let’s talk about the times when copying won’t cut it.

  • Something is legally protected. Trademarks, patterns, etcetera. When someone has taken the time to obtain one of these you are restricted from what you can do. So, tread lightly.
  • You plan to take something and repeat it word for word. This is plagiarism. You can’t just copy someone word for word and pass it off as your own. This also goes for duplicating someone else’s product or service exactly and passing it off as your own work.
  • Your gut tells you clearly that what you are doing doesn’t feel right. Sometimes your gut is all you have got when you are unclear as to whether you are in a grey area. Follow it.

Okay, so that list may make you want to avoid copying at any cost. But let’s look at it from another point of view. Mark Twain said in his autobiography, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” If you look at copying this way, it puts a different perspective on the concept.

So, how do you put someone else’s idea into your kaleidoscope and come up with a new and curious combination? First, you must review what is out there to see who else is offering something similar to what you want to offer. Answer these questions;

  • How many people are there offering a similar product/service?
  • What are they giving and for what price?
  • Where are they promoting it and how?
  • What makes their offer different from others?

Next, you work your kaleidoscope magic but putting all the pieces of you liked from the other offers out there and turning them to create your own unique combinations. This isn’t copying someone this is using what is out there, what has worked for others and combining it with your unique knowledge set to create your own offering.

So, the next time you see a great offer or idea don’t just think “Why didn’t I think of that?”. Stop and think “How can I make that mine?” And you never know you might make it better.

By: Amy Matthews, CEO, AMI LC