Greetings. Charles Caleb Colton, a somewhat obscure English writer and cleric from the early 1800's is credited with saying that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." And it is a remarkably powerful idea for companies and organizations –unless, of course, they are compelled to sue a competitor for trademark or patent infringement. But let's stick to a more basic and honest variation of this idea…
The notion that we often win in business by taking an idea from a different type of company or a different walk of life and adapting it to our particular enterprise. In fact, I spend a lot of time teaching our customers how to find great ideas in other industries that can create real excitement and greater value for those they have the privilege to serve. And here's a fun example that comes to mind as we wrap up our celebration of Pi Day.
Wait, did I just say Pi Day? Yes indeed! March 14th. The day "invented" to honor the adorable Greek letter ∏ that stands for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Which just so happens to equal 3.141592653589793238… It's an unofficial holiday revered by mathematicians everywhere and celebrated by a wide range of activities including the eating of pies.
But how does this relate to business success and standing out from the crowd?
To understand this, you'll have to take a quick visit the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, Texas, at 3:00 p.m. on any weekday afternoon. And you'll probably have to wait in line for a table with a lot of the locals, truck drivers and tourists who come to enjoy a delightful and non-intoxicating form of flattery. The copying of the idea of "Happy Hour" applied to pies. Because while the Blue Bonnet Cafe didn't invent the "Happy Hour"–that innovation was created by a clever tavern owner–they did invent the idea of a "Pie Happy Hour." A special and, to some, sacred time when customers can enjoy a slice of their favorite pie and a drink for only $3.50. And at a time when the restaurant would typically be relatively empty.
We win in business and in life when we refresh our offerings with the ideas and insights of others. And when our imitation is not only legal but makes customers' lives as sweet as possible.