To copy or to iterate?

An article in a recent issue of The Economist argued that being good at copying is at least as important as being innovative.  Here’s my take on it.

Schumpeter’s recent piece on Pretty Profitable Parrots seemed to confuse iteration with copying.  Building on the ideas of others is how the world gets better.  All progress stems from what preceded it.  Sir Isaac Newton captured this concept, saying  “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  It can be both brilliant and noble to seek and reapply ideas from one field to another (as in the case of Victoria’s Secret) or to envision an interface so elegant and simple that it transforms a technology (as with Apple and the MP3 player).  But it is not the same as being a copycat.  Copying is taking what is not yours and claiming it as your own, as illustrated by the image of a student leaning over to view his classmate’s work so he can scribble it down on his own test.  Iteration is listening well and contributing something to the conversation.

What do you think?

© May 2012 by Pam Daniels.  All rights reserved.


One Comment

  1. Absolutely on target here. In higher education
    scholarship we need other’s work to be the
    foundation of our new knowledge. We rely on
    scholars using the words and work of those
    who have gone before them to frame
    new scholarship in a community of thinkers
    and doers.


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