Originality: Holy Grail or Boat Anchor?

Originality is a tricky thing. It seems like everyone wants to do something original or unique. On the other hand, there are those people say that “there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.” Well, according to Mark Earls at his keynote speech at TNW Conference Europe 2013, it’s the latter half that has things right. Experiments by the British government have shown that the most important determinant of what someone is doing, is what other people are doing. But rather than resulting in everyone doing the same thing, Mr. Earls likens it to a game of Telephone. Despite wanting to copy exactly what the last person said, inevitably between the first and last person in the game, the message is changed dramatically. So, even though everyone is copying, we end up with something different than what we started with. And when it comes to building a product, that same thing is true. Hopefully, that results in new better products than we would with everyone trying to create a singular product that has never been created before.

So, essentially he’s saying that we’re better of trying to build a better mousetrap than trying to come up with a product that has never been conceived of before. In many ways, I agree because an inordinate amount of time could be spent searching for originality. And, in the end, you might end up with a product that nobody wants. Taking an existing product and reimagining it, on the other hand, could deliver a product that people already want, but in a superior form that they would prefer to what is currently on the market. If you doubt that possibility, see how well Microsoft, Apple, Facebook or Google have done over the years, with just that strategy.

Not convinced yet? Well, if you have 15 minutes to spare, give the video a look. It’s worth the time.

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