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October 25, 2005
'The Power of Dumb Ideas' -- what's creative about imitation?
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.
| Category: Innovation, General
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