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Picasso had a saying ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.

Steve Jobs

I already know what you’re thinking; we’ve all been taught since a very young age that stealing is bad. We place a lot of greatness on the innovators, the people who came up with the new idea, saying, “We don’t copy, we create. We don’t follow, we lead.” Unfortunately, this inability to adopt game changing ideas and incorporate them into our daily operations simply because it “wasn’t invented here” can slow us down, and inhibits company growth. In this post, I’ll show you why it’s okay to shamelessly steal, as long as you give credit of course, and why it’s a great way to quickly drive breakthroughs within your organization.

Reasons to Steal Shamelessly (But Give Credit)

In his book “Where Good Ideas Come From,” author Steven Johnson identifies 7 key patterns in which new ideas are formed, but two of these ways especially stood out to me:

  • Seizing existing components and ideas and repurposing them for a completely different use.
  • Adapting many layers of existing knowledge and components and delivery mechanisms that, in themselves, may not be unique, but can be recombined or leveraged into something new that is unique or novel. 

Making a great idea work for your unique set of needs still requires a little bit of creativity on your part, but in general, learning from others is a great way to not only save time, but also follow a tried and true path to success. Here are even more benefits to stealing great ideas:

#1 Someone Has Already Figured It Out

If someone else has already found the answer, why should you have to reinvent the wheel? Chances are if there’s a problem that needed solving, someone out there has already found a solution.

For example, what can you learn from TSIA’s member companies, and furthermore, what can you teach them? I can guarantee that if you have an objective you’re struggling with, one of these companies already has figured it out. At TSIA, we have a lot of member-to-member inquiries where companies share their best practices with one another. What good ideas can you steal from these people and how can you implement them into your daily operation?

#2 Speeds Up Time to Develop and Implement

In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to build a new tool or process from the ground up every time you want to accomplish something. If a solution already exists that can meet your needs, it’s better to adopt and implement it than to spend valuable time struggling to create a new one from scratch. By adopting proven processes and making them a part of your plan, you’ll be able to spend more of your time working toward your objectives. 

#3 Reduces Your Risk

If someone has already gone down the same path you’re about to embark on, chances are they’ve already run into some challenges along the way and have found ways to overcome them. Take this opportunity to reduce your own risk by learning from their mistakes and avoid making them yourself. By following in another’s footsteps, you’ll also gain a clear view of best practices that worked, allowing you to follow the path of least resistance and accomplish your goal with fewer roadblocks. 

#4 Broadens Your Horizons

A lot of people get stuck looking at their competitors for new ideas, when they should really be looking elsewhere. Breakthroughs do not always come from within an industry, but can come from adjacent industries, and even out on the fringe.

For example, in our book B4B, we noted that software has eaten industry after industry, and these changes are having an impact on everyone. By learning how other industries are growing and adapting when faced with similar challenges, you’ll have a better chance of overcoming the growth-hindering thought of “we’ve always done it this way” to build a stronger foundation for the future.

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Vele Galovski

About Author Vele Galovski

Vele Galovski is vice president of support and field services research for TSIA. Using his nearly 30 years of industry experience, he has consistently helped companies both large and small drive double-digit top-line growth with a proven retain, gain, and grow strategy. Vele has also written a book, The Perpetual Innovation Machine, which describes a holistic approach to management based on ambitious goal setting, data driven analysis, skillful prioritization, inspiring leadership, and the lost art of employee engagement.

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