The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.
Has Your Small Business Fallen into the Trap of Automatic Imitation?
Published on Jul 25, 2011
Read 'Has Your Small Business Fallen into the Trap of Automatic Imitation?' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
There’s a chance you may be imitating your competitors without even knowing it.How is this possible? It all starts with what researchers call “automatic imitation” — an unconscious mimicking of the behavior and gestures of others. It turns out that findings based on a simple game have implications about why we behave the way we do on every level of our existence.
In his recent article,Rock-paper-scissors Gamers “Mimic Each Other,” Jason Palmer (Science and technology reporter, BBC News), tells us that, “players of the rock-paper-scissors game unconsciously mimic the actions of their opponents, a study suggests. The result is surprising because advantage is gained in the game by acting differently from opponents. The authors say that in-built social aspects of behavior must therefore be considered in economic and game theory. At the root of the research is the idea that humans are prone to mimicking the behavior and gestures of others — an idea called "automatic imitation."
Now, let’s turn our attention to our business. Are we imitating, or are we innovating? How about our leadership philosophy, our marketing and how we handle all of the relationships in our lives — both professional and personal?
If being different than our “opponents” gives us an advantage, then we need to be consciously aware of breaking our unconscious automatic imitation tendencies.
Professor Wolfgang Prinz, of the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Germany, told BBC News that, "the fact that there is a spontaneous and initially irresistible tendency to copy does not say that this tendency cannot be overcome, and hence resisted, after a short while."
But what if your competitor is super successful? What if they are of the highest integrity, offering quality products and services? Well, it’s OK to use them as model — imitation is the highest form of flattery. But at some point we’ve got to start defining our company in a way that’s unique to us.
Both Apple and PC based computers have similar functions — up to a point — but ask anyone who is brand loyal to either side, and they’ll have a laundry list of the differences that make one platform their favorite.
At the end of the day, whether you stand out or blend into the small business crowd is up to you.