Innovation and Imitation

Good read over at MIT’s Technology Review: Mimetic Management. The author is Michael Schrage, a Fortune columnist and research associate at MIT Media Lab. The article touches on innovation, picks up yesterday’s thread about listening to customers, and tries to identify what motivates customers:

[I]t’s also critical for innovators to know who their customers and clients don’t want to emulate. It may be that innovation is seen as the best means for differentiating oneself from the competition. … And so who organizations don’t want to be like can be even more revealing than who they do.

The result is an intriguing matrix of innovation and imitation: who organizations aspire to be like and who they aspire to avoid, which processes should be innovative and which ones should be imitative. In other words, innovators will have to study the imitation patterns and pathologies of their customers in both innovative and imitative ways.

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