Mimicry, For Better or For Worse? Mimicry, For Better or For Worse?
Mimicry, For Better or For Worse?
The Daily GOOD
Get our daily dose of information and inspiration. Sign up Now ›
I was sitting with the executive director of a remarkable nonprofit organization the other night. Since our conversation was off the record, we'll call her Judy. We were talking about the many innovative things Judy's organization had done in the past few years: revolutionary use of design, breakthrough social-media campaigns, and wildly effective catch phrases for branding. By all measures, her organization had demonstrated tremendous innovation in the world of social enterprise. But Judy's excitement was tempered by a great frustration.
"People keep ripping us off," she explained.
I probed and Judy proceeded to cite four or five examples of other nonprofits that had copied her organization's ideas. In one case, a new strategy for online fundrainsing through social networks had been replicated by at least two other organizations. In another case, the branding (and even the font) for her organization's annual benefit event had been copied.
"I'm not sure how to react," she told me. "Our team works so hard to be novel leaders in our space, and then everyone else starts copying what we do. All of our best ideas become commoditized!"
My first reaction was sympathy. As the CEO of a design-centric technology company, I know all too well the feeling of being copied. Inspirating others is one thing, but seeing your own hard work and intellectual property used by another company is another thing entirely. Judy was pretty upset, and I could understand why.
However, as our discussion continued, I wondered if Judy's disappointment was short-sighted. What if Judy's greatest contribution to the world was, in fact, the practices that were being ripped off?
Without a doubt, Judy's organization is a pioneer in how technology, design, and branding should be used in social enterprise. The mimicry that made her cry foul was, in fact, making a huge impact for other organizations. When designing websites or campaigns, other organizations were referring to Judy's organization for ideas and examples. Judy had, unintentionally, become the leader of a think tank for innovation in the non-profit world.
I wondered, rather than fight the blatant mimicry, should Judy support it? Other nonprofits across fields would certainly benefit from Judy's innovations. Is it ok to copy another's practices for a good cause?
Like any nonprofit executive, Judy was very focused on fundraising. She was concerned that her organization's reputation would suffer as her innovations became "commoditized." To challenge Judy, I proposed another argument: What if a donation of one dollar was not just a dollar toward the cause, but a dollar toward innovation that raises the game for all nonprofits looking to capitalize on new technology, social media, and design? Given Judy's track record of being copied, this could add a new dimension to soliciting donations.
The other argument I made was that, rather than fret about being copied, Judy should stay ahead of the curve. When a company like Apple launches a breakthrough product, the entire industry scrambles to get in step. Apple's innovations in design and technology set a new standard. Apple's best defense is to keep innovating.
Rather than fight mimicry, I suggested to Judy that she flaunt it. It is an incredible value that Judy's organization brings to the world beyond the specific cause that she addresses.
Scott Belsky studies productive people and teams in the creative world. He is the Founder and CEO of Behance, oversees The 99% think tank, and is the author of Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming The Obstacles Between Vision & Reality.
— Like us on Facebook to get more GOOD —
Fabian Williams Captures Atlanta's Friction and Soul There’s something bubbling in Atlanta.
The Feminist Life: Free the Auto Show Model Women now work in all facets of the automotive industry, not just as models rolling around on the hood of a car.
Turning Rubbernecking in Bangladesh into a Lifesaving Moment Without 9-1-1 or a reliable ambulance system, one med student and 100 volunteers launch a mobile-based emergency response system
Female Monks Challenge Buddhism’s Misogynistic Tendencies Long relegated to being the handmaidens of the more revered male monks, devout Thai women are now establishing their own religious order
If You Really Love Nature, Don’t Live Anywhere Near It Almost universally, people living in urban locations have a much smaller environmental footprint.
For Ernesto Yerena, Los Angeles is the City of Hustle and Hope Artist Ernesto Yerena’s visual love letter to the City of Hustle and Hope.
Books Stop Bullets at Tragic FSU Shooting A tragic shooting, a confusing profile of a would-be-killer, and a student saved by his library books
These Grandmas Smoke Pot For The First Time. And They Absolutely Love it. They take a few epic bong rips before waxing poetic on the merits of ironing, mistake a vaporizer for a sex toy, and stonily lose track of whatever thoughts they were briefly attempting to articulate.
If You See One Iranian Vampire Western Movie This Year, Make it This One The chador-wearing, skateboarding, vampire protagonist of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night would fit right in to a John Hughes movie
There’s No Reason for Any Nation Not to Vaccinate its Feral Dogs Targeting the semi-wild dogs that roam city streets and rural hamlets all over the world can break the chain of rabies transmission and eliminate cases in humans
The Secret Origin of Neil deGrasse Tyson It took perseverance, intense training, and a willingness to defy expectations to turn a curious kid into the sharp, affable scientist we know today.
VITAMINS 101: Know What You Need Get the dish on your nutrition