Tag Archives: imitation

The Line Between Imitation and Inspiration

One of the ideas that I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of weeks is the internet and how that relates to the proliferation of ideas in relation to the pure creation of ideas. I think that one of the characteristics of the modern, digital age is that it is much more difficult to create in a vacuum. It’s difficult to achieve what I call “pure” creation. In general, ideas all of origins and those with a digital trail are very easy to follow. In thinking about myself and my daily process, I’ve realized that often times I forget where an idea originated from simply because I read through a lot of content. On daily basis, I skim through about 50-100 titles of articles, blog posts, and news headlines. I skim through about 20-30 of those pieces. I read through about 5-10 of those particular pieces. It’s easy to tell that I can’t always sift through all of those in order to find out where an idea that I’m thinking about, came from and that calls into question whether I’ve been inspired by something or whether I’m just imitating something I’ve already read.

Imitation is something that I think is just a consequence of the Internet. You can find just about about any story in a thousand if not more different places on the web and that obviously means that your attempt to imitate an idea isn’t all that worthwhile. It will just get lost in the shuffle and the adage is true. An imitation is nice, but it’s never quite as good as the original. I think that the line between imitation and inspiration is difficult for some people to ascertain. It should be obvious that we should strive to be inspired by things and strive to create something new. For me one of the effective ways to keep the line in mind is to always “give credit where credit is do.” We grow up in school always being told to cite our sources and that’s great for formal pieces, but people often forget that citing a source doesn’t always have to mean creating a document with a title, body, and footer. It’s not necessary. Whenever I write something, I’m just diligent in making sure that I’m citing the origins of my ideas, and whenever possible linking to where an idea came from. In that way, I know almost instantaneously whether I’m just rewriting something or writing something that was brought about by inspiration. I think that if you know the line between imitation and inspiration then that lends itself to helping you to not fall into the hole of attempting to mimic someone’s success in place of doing something that actually matters to you. 

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The Problem with Conventional Thinking

One of the things that is really difficult to do is to innovate. Innovation is hard to achieve whereas maintaining the status quo or imitation is easy, but, of course, it’s never as good as the original. This is one of the reasons we respect visionaries, such as Steve Jobs. He was great at innovating and pushing the bounds. In my opinion, one of the abilities he had was the ability to overcome conventional thinking.

Conventional thinking involves meeting a problem with an already well established body of rules and procedures and this in it of itself isn’t necessarily bad. We use it as a foundation and that foundation is key as a starting point, but if a person is incapable of breaking free from conventional thinking than progress ceases. What makes it difficult to escape conventional thinking is the dilemma of pure creation. It’s difficult to imagine something that is completely detached from the reality we know. You can feel this yourself. Imagine someone asked you to break away from everything you know and write a science fiction novel about a world completely distinct from our own. Think about how difficult it would be to embrace pure creation without some influence from Earth and humanity. It would be really difficult. The takeaway is that the problem of conventional thinking is one of a stifling of innovation and progression. It is important to use conventional thinking as a base, but to be sure to build on it.

It’s my belief that a lot of companies that fail, fail because they have strict corporate cultures that emphasize convention over progression. This hinders progression which stifles innovation and leads other companies to gain an edge and eventually cannibalize the market. A great example of this can be seen in the smartphone market. RIM for many years was a market leader in the smartphone market with the Blackberry phone, but in a matter of a year or two their market share dwindled because of the Android and iPhone smartphones. Management at RIM clearly just didn’t respond to changes in the market and I believe that an inability to challenge conventional thinking was one of the causes. Conventional thinking is useful, but it’s also a problem to be cognizant of and one that can be overcome.


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