Do you remember that child at school who would curl their arm around their work so there was no chance of copying what they were doing? They were really mean weren’t they? They wouldn’t even let you take their exercise books home so you could copy their brilliant work for your homework. They were right swots who wanted to stop you from taking their best stuff, making you do all the work yourself. What meanies.
New research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows these individuals were actually being really helpful. This quite novel study shows that when children copy their homework from others, they actually end up getting lower grades overall. Furthermore, it seems that the children who copy appear to be doing it to save time and effort, but the research found that the copiers were falling behind with their work schedules.
The children who copied homework from others in their class earned grades which were two levels down from the children who did the work themselves; instead of getting an A the copiers got a C, for instance.
What was happening was the homework grades were roughly equal, but when it came to exams the copiers were less able to cope. Whilst this might seem obvious, the children in the study were matched for ability. In other words, the copiers were equally capable of passing the exams, it’s the copying that seemed to get in the way. Furthermore, the copiers were two days slower in completing their work compared with the children who did not copy.
Translation – copying slows you down and stops you thinking.
And therein lies the problem for many website owners. They scour the web for examples of websites they can emulate in terms of design, for instance. Or they look for ways in which other people are using Facebook for business purposes and try to copy what they are doing. Often you hear people at meetings asking for examples of “best practice” so they can copy it.
Here’s a startling fact. The companies with the best practice didn’t copy anyone else. They just did it. Starbucks invented the business use of Twitter which now so many other people copy. Facebook didn’t copy anyone else’s form of social networking, they invented a whole new kind, now copied by thousands of other sites. Similarly. Google didn’t copy old, hand-based forms of search engine technology, they invented an automated system which now everyone else tries to copy.
Just as in the classroom, copying in business doesn’t work. You’re an also-ran, at least two grades down from the originators of that “best practice”.
Plus, just like the classroom copiers, looking for all those examples of best practice and then setting up a copycat system in your own business almost certainly takes longer than to invent the system in the first place.
The children at school who copy appear to be denying themselves the ability to think for themselves and come up with original ideas. Those children who do not copy are the ones coming up with original material in almost half the time it takes the copiers to do the same amount of work. And so it is the same in business; copying ideas from competing companies thwarts thinking, crushes creativity and obliterates originality. And it takes you more time to do it than come up with your own original ideas.
If you want to get an A+ for your web business, stop trying to emulate and copy others. Be original, be creative and be yourself…!
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+