How original are you? Think about it. I’m not talking about your DNA, or your personality or anything scientific. I’m talking about your behaviour. Do you imitate others? Of course you do. We all do. Albert Bandura, a psychologist coined the term “social learning theory” which proposes that new behaviours can be acquired by observing and imitating others. He also claims that people can learn to partake in behaviours that incur a reward and avoid behaviours that incur a punishment. He notes that this can be done just from observing other people receive rewards and punishments for their behaviour. I can attest to this a bit. Growing up, my sister was always getting into trouble. And I knew exactly what beahviours to steer clear from.
That doesn’t mean I was perfect. Not even close. But what it meant was that I could see my sister getting in trouble, so I knew what boundaries I could or couldn’t push. It also gave me an edge with my parents because now I knew what I should and shouldn’t do. This helped me to fly under the radar. But let’s think about this from a different perspective. How does this apply in the business world? Businesses will copy the things that bring rewards to them in order to succeed. Think about Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest – they’re always copying some feature or another.
Here’s an old school example. Back when Gillette first started selling razor blades, customers though the product was too expensive. Apparently it was cheaper to go to a barber to get a shave. What is interesting about this, is how much time you would have to spend in a barber shop. Presumably, most men shave daily? I’ve gotten off topic a bit here. Gillette decided to revise their business model to sell the razors cheaply in order to make a profit from the blades instead. Which meant that customers would be paying for the shave instead of the device itself. This type of business model has been applied over and over again in today’s modern world. Think about Nespresso or Keurig. You spend money on the coffee machine, but the profits come from all the coffee cartridges that they sell as well.
However, sometimes success comes in employing a new business model to disrupt an industry. Uber’s business model disrupted the taxi industry because they introduced a model where they pair up the drivers and passengers in real-time via an app. This decreased the hassle of hailing a taxi for consumers. By not having drivers on full-time payroll or owning any vehicles, in short cutting out the middleman, they were also able to offer pricing that was significantly lower than the dominant taxi companies. Furthermore, they introduced referral programs where the referrer got credit and referred got the first ride free to gain market share.
But now we see other industries replicating this model. Airbnb for example has been disrupting the hotel industry by pairing up people who have empty rooms to people looking to visit a place via an app. When a business model works, the tools and tricks around the trade still need to be relevant to the market, therefore it makes sense to copy the operational procedures that others find effective. This is more common in the services industry because the consumer becomes familiar with how one particular service works and the competitors need to keep up to stay relevant.
Now that I’ve given you a few examples, I’m sure you can think of many more out there. It’s interesting to me, though. Sometimes you can copy an idea successfully, and other times you will get sued for doing it. The whole point of this article is to see how a business success (or even personal success) can be applied to another person or industry in order to make something better. Or change something. This can be applied to your own life. If you feel like you’re constantly getting in trouble from your boss for doing something “wrong”, find someone who is doing something “right”. And copy what they’re doing. You won’t be any farther behind.