Innovate or copyvate? 

Innovation is now essential for all organisations. 

The rapid changes occuring in business model, driven primarily by new technologies, means if you are not innovating your business model, service and product you are unlikely to be sustainable in the medium term. 

I believe innovation can come from internal innovation (innovate), acquiring externally developed ideas or products (acquivate) or innovations developed in conjunction with customers, alliance partners and your ecosystem (ecovate). All forms are important as you need a portfolio to be effective. 

A traditional school of thought has been to pay attention to competitors and be a fast follower – letting a competitor spend the R&D and rapidly copy any new feature or release (copyvate).  This is a legitimate modus operandi for all organisations- having strong competitive intelligence is essential. 

But if this is your only or primary focus, it comes with significant perils. Why? 

1. Certain of the new models are largely winner takes all. Network or platform models ( think Uber, Airbnb and Amazon) are incredibly difficult to compete with as a fast follower once they have established their base. 

2. Innovation is as much cultural as it is programmatic. Being a fast follower only, does not build the spirit within your people that I believe is needed to keep driving the company forward with new ideas and improvement. 

3. Being a fast follower only means the company is often fixated with the one competitor and fails to recognise disruption coming from other organisations or the opportunities from adjacencies. 

Having a portfolio of innovation, including all sources of innovate, acquivate, ecovate and yes, copyvate, is essential and increasing in importance in today’s fast changing world. 

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