About this Author
Gwen Smith Ishmael, Sr. Vice President of Insights and Innovation at Decision Analyst in Arlington, TX, has led marketing and new product development activities in the CPG and technology industries since 1986. She also conceived and developed ground-breaking Web-based promotional vehicles, two of which are patent pending. Gwen holds an MBA in Marketing and is a featured speaker on insights and innovation around the world. Her writings have been featured in international text books, most recently in Managing 4 Ps of Marketing FMCG Sector, and Product Innovation: A Strategic Tool for Growth, by ICFAI Publications, 2006 and 2007, respectively.

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Renee Hopkins Callahan Renee Hopkins Callahan started IdeaFlow and serves as chief blog-wrangler. She is Director of Innovation Services at Decision Analyst in Arlington, Texas, is a former journalist who worked as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News and the Nashville Tennessean, and was managing editor of D, the Dallas city magazine. She has a master's degree in rhetoric and has also taught college-level English and informal logic.
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline


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October 25, 2005

'The Power of Dumb Ideas' -- what's creative about imitation?

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

A few weeks ago Randall Rothenberg opined in Strategy + Business (excerpted from The Big Moo) about "The Power of Dumb Ideas," saying "The solution to marketing's current ills is not more creativity. It's less." His point -- "imitation across industries is more efficient and effective than blue-sky creativity and innovation."

Many novel ideas are simply irrelevant, says he, which I wouldn't disagree with. However, while unfettered blue-sky creativity can lead to irrelevance, unfettered imitation can lead to endless repetition for the sake of repetition, and the kind of incremental faux-innovation that results in 14 varieties of Oreos in the cookie aisle.

There is immense energy behind imitation, but it isn't in using the four broad ideas that Rothenberg says have been copied over and over as a template. The energy behind imitation comes in inventive recombination and in analogy. Inventive recombination means generating new energy by putting things together that were never put together before. Analogy means tapping into the very logic of the relationship between two things to see if that logical structure can be replicated in a new way.

This is not less creative -- it's more creative. But it's certainly less provocative than saying that the most powerful idea is a dumb idea.

Comments (1) | Category: Innovation, General


1. Glenn Harrington on December 16, 2005 4:00 PM writes...

Hi Renee.

Your brief thesis is easy to agree with. How about some good examples? Also, where does being genuine fit with being creative via inventive recombination? Care to elaborate?

- Glenn Harrington

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