Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Does Imitation Equal Strategic Agility?


An organization’s agility is at the core of their long-term viability and success, asserts Donald Sull.

Sull suggests that Apple’s launch of the ipod was a perfect example of strategic agility, and the fact that they “stayed in the game” long enough – namely 25 years – proved their windfall.  Another article I recently read in the Economist, Pretty Profitable Parrots, attests that another factor, equally strategic, launched Apple to the top.  The factor?  Imitation.  Apple wasn’t the first company to create a digital music player, smartphone or tablet, but they were the best at it.  (Legal) imitation may save a company Research and Development costs and could mitigate the risk of failure if a product has been previously tested in a market.  The idea of imitation generally makes American companies (and admittedly, myself) uncomfortable.  Kevin Rollins, former CEO of Dell, asks an important question though, “If innovation is such a competitive weapon, why doesn’t it translate into profitability?”

American business trends toward innovation.  Copycats are despised at worst and viewed as pathetic at best.  We extol the value and necessity of innovation in business and best business practices reinforce the idea that innovation is a necessary and intangible capability that directly influences a company’s value.  But, I wonder if identifying the right idea to imitate and the right time to create the imitation can also prove an organization’s strategic agility?

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