business models

Innovation strategy: a look at China, originality and copying

“The New Originality”, a witty project by Droog (Amsterdam) in a search for new incentives, new business models, and new ways of developing original thought, links copying to innovation and looks to the hub of copycat culture – China. How does copying affect ‘innovation strategy’?

Brands steal from each other all the time so what’s the big deal?

What’s the value of overpriced “original” ideas that can be copied and innovated, sometimes being made even better than the original, at a fraction of the cost – especially in a world where the divide between the haves and the have nots is so large? Innovative ideas don’t have to be original to create value. Consumers would agree we’re sure, but what about brands? Would a brand dare to “re-innovate” another brand’s original idea openly? Brands do copy and steal from each other all the time anyway – is that a bad thing when it often means ideas are bettered? Isn’t that what innovation’s about – finding new ways to make things better? How long is an idea original? We think Droog has opened a very interesting topic here.

Imagine tweaking the old saying “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” to “imitation is a sincere form of innovation.”

This is the attitude behind a set of 26 new objects created by the witty Dutch design collective Droog. Each of the objects, you see, are copies of traditional Chinese designs, such as teapots and vases. Only they’re slightly tweaked: the pot has a chic, sleek new handle; the vase is decorated with hip, minimalist stripes. These “fakes” will be on view in a cheeky new exhibition that opens on March 9 in a Chinese shopping mall in Guangzhou. And all of the objects were made in Shenzhen, an area known for its copycat goods.

The show, called “The New Original,” is part of a larger initiative, “The New Originality,” by Droog Lab, a research arm of Droog. It consisted of visiting China and doing field observations of design practices and hosting workshops there to discuss findings in the context of global design. While the show in China might seem almost stunt-like, the issues that it raises have business relevance.

As stated on Droog Lab’s site,

…if we are for or against open design and co-creation, we have to admit that a rigid system of copyright laws can block creative thinking. Since copying is deeply rooted in Chinese culture and is not seen as something negative, we believe China can be a model country for new understandings of originality.

Click here for the full article.