Good Artists Copy. Great Artists Steal.


The phrase used as our headline is an old adage. It is not meant as encouragement to plagiarize. Rather it is an acknowledgement that no artistic achievement is totally original but inspired by those achievements that came before.

Business is no different. While business people chase innovation, it comes to doing what someone else has done better than they did. Sam Walton owned a franchised five and dime store. When the company that he franchised from wouldn’t let him operate the way he wanted, he dropped the franchise and rebranded as Wal-Mart. His vision of Wal-Mart wasn’t original. He was actually inspired by what K-Mart was doing.

Using K-Mart’s model as a starting point, he continually updated his model. He copied K-Mart but then moved forward to do better than they did. Copying a business model was only the first step. Improving on that model was the key to his success.

Look to other companies for inspiration. If they are doing something better than you are, copy what they do, but keep improving on it.

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