Copycat Innovation

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What is Copycat Innovation?

Copycat Innovation is about adapting a proven solution to come out with an innovation thereby minimizing risk and optimizing success. In short, it is about taking what works best and improving on it.

Copycat Innovation is not about a full-scale imitation of an existing product, service or process  as  creativity and innovation are required for its adaptation.  It has a structured methodology.

Copycat Innovation is not to be confused with copyright or patent infringement. It takes advantage of the R&D carried out earlier and involves the borrowing and developing of existing products and technologies to carve a competitive niche in the marketplace.

Why Copycat Innovation?

Coming out with breakthrough ideas and innovations is indeed tempting and glamorous. Success could be market domination. However, this strategy carries the biggest risks and demands massive efforts and resources. It is an activity that is complex, costly and with very little promise of a return on investment. Work on the successor of the successful product has to start immediately, which means that the successive research budget must be increasingly higher than the original innovation. Examples of this approach are Intel, 3M and P&G.

With globalisation and the advent of the internet, there is an easier, simpler and a proven new path to minimising risk and optimising success. This path is termed “Copycat Innovation”.  Examples of this approach is Apple in developing the iPod, iPhone and iPad series of products, the book series on Harry Potter and the movie Paranormal Activity.

In fact this approach is not new. It has been carried out by countless successful companies and organisations but no one has given it a generic  name until now. Dr.YKK, the Chief Mind Unzipper has named this approach as Copycat Innovation. He has developed a 7-step methodology  for Copycat Innovation that taps into the awesome power of the global brain via the internet.

In short, Copycat Innovation offers the best approach for your organisation in sustaining and growing your competitiveness and strategic positioning in the market –place because:

  • It  has a low risk as you are adapting or refining a proven solution
  • It is low-cost  as the research and development work has already been done for you
  • It  requires minimal resources as you don’t need massive efforts and resources
  • It  is a short-route to commercialisation

Examples of Copycat Innovation

  • · Apple iPad : Apple launched the iPad in 2010 by refining and adapting technologies from many sources . For example, the first Tablet computer was built by Microsoft in 2001. MIT created the Touch Screen technologies and the hand motion systems for flipping pages or moving screens. Of course, Apple introduces many innovations to the iPad too.
  • · Harry Potter : Are the stories of Harry Potter written by J.K.Rowlings,  a Copycat Innovation of Lord of the Ring by J.R.R.Tolkien? It looks like she did as there are so many similarities to the plot. Go to: to see the comparison for yourself. J.K. Rowling has a lot of original ideas of her own, such as the concept of muggles, and the game of Quiddich.
  • · Conveyor Belts : It was first popularised by Henry Ford car production and now used as travelators and luggage conveyors in airports and food conveyors in restaurants. Notice that it is not just about copying as each usage requires its own innovations.
  • Facebook : Facebook did not invent social networking. Social networking took off in a big way with Friendster in 2001.This was followed by LinkedIn and MySpace in 2003. Facebook’s success lies in its memorable, descriptive and  a multitude of easily-accessed features – all of which are innovations in their own right.
  • Banking: Commerce Bank is one of America’s best-performing financial institutions, with a stock that grew more than 2,000% in 10 years.  Its strategy is to employ Copycat Innovation from the retail business. It is the most convenient bank, with a fanatical commitment to “wowing” its customers. Commerce Bank is famous for its “Penny Arcade” where kids have a lot of fun on an interactive screen while depositing their savings in coins.

The 7-Step Methodology to Copycat Innovation

1. Identifying the Core issue
Copycat Innovation begins by asking questions to identify the core issue – identifying the causes and not just the symptoms. For example , if there is a drop in enrolment in science education , what is the underlying cause? Is it employability, teaching, facilities, perception, etc. We can do research on research that have been undertaken in this field as practically almost every issue has been researched before. Talk to the people on the ground who are the most affected. If necessary, do a confirmation research. The important thing to avoid is paralysis through analysis. You need to ask five important questions.

2. Taking the Michelangelo approach
The common approach is to start from where we are to where we want to go. A better way is that of Michelangelo approach where he visualized the image of David before he freed the figure by chipping away the unwanted pieces to create a master-piece marble sculpture. Thus this approach involves starting from the destination and removing current obstacles that could obstruct its path. It is about a vision that begins with the end in mind.

3. Searching globally for successful solutions
Before trying new ideas, first do a search on whether a similar problem has been solved before. Sometimes the same or similar problem had already been solved by individuals, companies, government or private organisations or a community . Many innovations have been featured in magazines, papers and e-publications. Even unrelated creative solutions could trigger new ideas for a viable and practical innovation. The key to this is the ability to use the right search terms and the appropriate search engines. This will save a lot of time and reduces risk.

4. Innovating the wheel
Once successful solutions have been found, the next step is to adapt the solution to the issue at hand. This progression is termed “ Innovating the wheel” as there’s no need to re-invent a new solution when you can creatively imitate a proven workable successful solution. The creativity lies with the refinement and adaptation process.

5. Selling the Copycat Innovation
This is an important step to get involvement of all stakeholders in formulating a solution. Their involvement will ensure their support for implementation and to mitigate objections and protests. Moreover, it will cultivate a sense of ownership and the commitment of the stakeholders to the Copycat Innovation. Of course, it also requires the relevant approvals, budget and resource allocations.

6. Implementing the Copycat Innovation

The success of a project depends on its implementation details. It involves human resources, budget allocation, logistics, sales and marketing and compliance with regulations where relevant.

7. Recognizing & celebrating
There’s nothing like recognition and celebration at both the launching and celebration of the project to motivate your staff and stakeholders to support future projects. It will instil a sense of pride and ownership among your staff members.

Your Copycat Innovation facilitator

Dr. Yew Kam Keong , better known as Dr.YKK, the Chief Mind Unzipper  will lead you through the Copycat Innovation process in a fun, participative and stimulating way. He will help you to bring out viable and practical innovation for your organisation. A word of warning though – you may never think the same way again!

Dr. YKK is acknowledged as a Distinguished Talent on Creativity & Innovation by the Australian Government. A best-selling author and masterful storyteller, Dr YKK is an international speaker, trainer, and innovation consultant to governments, multinational corporations and SMEs. His best-selling book “You Are Creative” has been reprinted 12 times and published in 5 languages.

Dr.YKK was the only person from among the British Commonwealth countries to be selected to serve on the pioneer panel of 8 international creativity expert  advisers to Lego on its global project “The Next Generation Forum”.

Contact Dr.YKK  – Email:

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