Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal: The Power of Imitation

Above you’ll see a screen capture of the widely popular and successful Square App, and incredible technology that allows any small business to start accepting credit card payments directly on their mobile device.

The technology is sweet and the website is just as sweet, to the point, and very visually effective – there’s not much else that is needed to understand exactly what you’re going to get and what you can expect from the entire experience.

With that being said it’s quite understandable why others would find the design, aesthetic, and execution “inspiring” – in fact, this company decided that they really couldn’t do much better and ripped the entire thing:

SalonSwipe not only does the exact same thing as a company but has a near replica website and homepage to boot. It’s a near perfect copy!

For many this would make them outraged, especially because the “rip off” is so blatant, so obvious – unashamedly so. One of my partners after seeing this said the following:

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, that’s one of the most sincerest things I’ve ever seen.

I could say few things better!

But here’s another perspective, one that I mostly likely share with a far smaller audience: I applaud this effort and I even encourage it.

Here’s the thing: I know myself well enough and have enough emotional intelligence to admit that I’m not the most creative guy on the block. Say what you will but you’re honestly mistaken – very few (if any) of my ideas are actually one hundred percent, unadulterated and certifiably unique. In other words, I haven’t really come up with anything ground-breaking in my entire life.

What I do have is a different perspective on technology, the pragmatic use of it, and the interplay of the two in light of the human experience. Otherwise I simply “copy” and then execute in a form that may not be altogether new – but heck, it works.

One of the best examples is this blog, which has been able to attract a wide and international audience of people passionate about blogging and building their businesses and brands. I love that! But am I doing something entirely unique? No, not in the least! I’m blogging, daily, just like millions of other people around the world. I have a particular target market and audience interest but that’s about it. The rest is minor details and I would never win a Nobel Prize for my work.

But it doesn’t stop there! I teach and coach all of you to do the exact same thing! Every day I share with you my strategy, how I execute, how I get “this thing” to work, and I tell you to copy me and I never ask you to give me credit or even come back and thank me. I want you to succeed and I know that my model works and that you should try it too!

Go figure, right?

I see the same thing in play with Salon – they have the foresight and wisdom matched with sheer execution to realize opportunity – there’s a niche market they can serve where they can provide value to the end customer, helping their needs and making a profit on the side. I don’t find much wrong with that picture, do you?

Although there is something deep within me that wishes Salon didn’t outright copy-and-paste (heck, even some of the code is the same!) I don’t get emotional about it and I’m certainly not going to flame them for it.


In the end it’s just not that big of a deal.

Finally, to put this to rest, I love Steve Jobs’ quote about “stealing great ideas”:

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So go on, I empower you to steal all the ideas that you find here on TentBlogger and go change the world!