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Imitation as a source of innovation


Manage By Walking Around

What was the first fast food company?
What was the first credit card company?

If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t know the answers are White Castle and Diners’ Club. While both companies still exist, they now have relatively small share in what has turned out to be very large markets.

In an earlier post, I argued the benefits of the so-called first mover advantage are exaggerated:

While being first in category helps, it doesn’t guarantee success. Atari was the first video game, Visicalc the first desktop spreadsheet, and Mosaic the first Internet browser.  None are leaders in their categories.  This is not just a technology phenomenon. Gablinger was the first low-calorie beer but lost the market to Miller Lite.

In a book called Copycats, Professor Oded Shenkar takes an even more extreme position: first movers have an inherent disadvantage because they have to pave the way for something new. …

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