Although the word “copy” seems outlawed, the copy has been and is one of the cornerstones of innovation. The major creations and developments are, in fact, the reinvention of previous creations.

I will always remember what our Project professor told us on our final year in the Faculty. We had to design a project and many of us were concerned because we could not think of any interesting topic to work on. It was then that he told us: “You do not always have to invent new things. See what others have made and, if it works, copy it.

As the twelfth-century French philosopher Bernard de Chartres said, “We are like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.” This phrase, which subsequently popularized Isaac Newton, would mean that today’s innovations are possible thanks to the work done by those who have preceded us.

Very few innovations are genuinely new, emerged from nowhere. Most innovations are the reinvention of old ideas. Tom Kelley, General Manager of IDEO, in his book The Ten Faces of Innovation, talks about the “Cross-Pollination”, a strategy to promote innovation in organizations by applying practices used in other fields.

William C. Taylor, founder of Fast Company, also highlights the importance of exploring other sectors to find ideas that could help reinvent our company. One of the most interesting examples, mentioned in his book Practically Radical is that of the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, known for its expertise in infant heart surgery, which was inspired by Formula One racing teams to improve patient handovers procedures.

Creativity is not limited to the creation of new things. This is only one possibility (not the most current one) at our disposal to innovate. In most cases, creativity means to see everyday things in a different way. Paradoxically, to innovate is sometimes necessary to copy (and reinvent).

***

For more information on the Great Ormond Street Hospital:

The Wall Street Journal (2006) “A Hospital Races To Learn Lessons Of Ferrari Pit Stop”