the copycat era


The last decade has seen an explosion of copying in its various forms. Technology has made it easier to do everything from rip off a song to replicate the design of an engine, and rising powers like China and India are home to burgeoning industries dedicated to creating low-cost alternatives to cutting-edge, brand-name products, whether they’re cars, computers, or drugs. At the same time, researchers in the fields of biology, business, and economics are looking in detail at how and why and when copying works. What some are finding is that it is a strategy that works much better than we think — whether for businesses, people, or animals competing in the wild. At its best, copying spreads knowledge and speeds the process by which insights and inventions are honed, eliminating dead-end approaches and saving time, effort, and money. “We hear so much about innovation, I don’t know how many hundreds if not thousands of books, articles, and so forth,” says Oded Shenkar, a professor at Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business and author of the forthcoming book “Copycats: How Smart Companies Use Imitation to Gain a Strategic Edge,” “but imitation is at least as important as innovation if you really want to grow efficiently and make a profit.”

more from Drake Bennett at the Boston Globe here.