A couple months ago, we mentioned the book Copycats
, which highlights how copying others is often a good overall business strategy, not just for companies, but for innovation as a whole (and, from that, society at large). I've since gotten a copy of the book, though haven't had a chance to read it (getting to it... eventually...). But it's interesting to see others picking up on the same idea, outside of the book (or did they just copy it?). Peter Friedman
points us to a Business Week column by Scott Berkun, who has done lots of writing on this topic, highlighting how wasteful it is to have everyone trying to "reinvent" stuff
that's already been invented (often reinventing it in a "worse" way). His argument, like the one in the Copycats
book, is that we need to get over this stigma that copying is somehow "bad."
Right now, in meetings at corporations around the world, the wise are suffering. They are trapped in rooms where debate rages over how to solve a problem. The rub is that the problem has already been solved, just not by someone in the room--and solutions from outside are ignored. This is the disease known as "NIH," or "Not Invented Here" syndrome, and it's alive and well in 2010. Despite our many technological advancements in communication, none have eliminated this perennial waste of time. Why is this problem so hard to shake? Will we always be confronted with people who insist on reinventing wheels?
It's good to see more people discussing this basic topic, as the cultural stigma against building off of what others have done is really quite disturbing, and underlies many of the arguments in favor of bad copyright and patent laws. Getting people to realize that building on the works of others has produced wonderful things, while also being much more efficient, is a key to rethinking how we view concepts like "intellectual property."