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Copycats: How Smart Companies Use Imitation to Gain a Strategic Edge by Oded Shenkar

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5.

Imitation Capabilities and Processes

Those who look at works of painting and drawing must have the imitative faculty and no one could understand the painted horse or bull unless he knew what such creatures are like.

—Apollonius of Tyana1

As scientists have come to recognize, the ability to imitate is not widely distributed. As for business firms, some have consistently shown an ability to imitate effectively—so much so that they have repeatedly grabbed the leadership position from pioneers and innovators, as IBM did, first with mainframes and then with personal computers. In contrast, others have failed repeatedly despite the lessons they have learned from prior failures, both others’ and their own, as shown in the case of Delta Air Lines’ ...

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