Have you ever sat in amazement watching a local flock of birds as they quickly and abruptly change direction while a flock follows? Observing flocks of local birds, it is immediately apparent that they are significantly different from migratory birds, as migratory birds fly in a straight line. It’s hard to say why the birds fly together in local flocks and seem to challenge each other over who will lead the formation, but it seems to be what they do. From long-distance migrations it is clear that they are doing this for the sake of aerodynamic advantage.
And now I would like to draw this analogy and invite you to think. I would like you to sit back and think about it for a moment when I compare it to innovation and change in any given industry, when industry leaders take positions with new innovations, research and development and other companies follow them. Sometimes the industry has a pretty good idea of where it will go in the future, but it doesn’t know exactly how to get there – or exactly the intended destination – just what will end up getting there.
Let’s take a look at Apple and their latest iPods, iPhones and iPads – you have to admit it’s a lot of innovation for one company in a short amount of time. It seems that if you think that new innovations can not be, Apple is coming up with something new. They are definitely innovators in the personal technology industry, personal computers, and who knows what else in the future? Every time they innovate, a flock follows. Some of the other companies or birds are watching very closely and trying to imitate almost exactly.
Other companies are kept far behind, they are calm, not trying to fight for the pole position or keep up with them. Instead, when the flock makes a hard turn to the right, they can just slightly adjust their trajectory vector to catch up with them. In fact, the following companies, imitators and copyists of their innovations, patents and intellectual property spend much less energy, although it can be said that they are still part of the herd (industry).
Older or weaker birds do this most often, especially if they can’t keep up with stronger young birds that may flaunt in front of potential mates or compete for the order of pecking. One may ask, which strategy is best? Flying after the leader and thus in their currents like Lance Armstrong on the Tour de France, or hovering in the Peloton and flying a shorter distance each time the flock turns in a different direction, still gets to the indie destination with the rest birds.
If we look at Apple and its market capitalization, or at a company like Google, or even Microsoft at the time, we’ll see that innovators, if they can keep innovating, tend to win the game. In a flock of birds, the leading birds are likely to mate with other birds of their choice, and they remain on top of the order of pecking. Because of all this fancy flight and hard work they are probably also stronger birds, more physical and it is also a benefit.
There will always be leaders in any industry or field, and there will always be leeches who are attached to them. Some will say that the best strategy is to be the main bird or to take advantage of the “first market theory” as often as possible, and yet I would suggest you in our time rapid prototyping, fierce personal branding and marketing technologies to be first in the market cannot be smart and even safe. Okay, but we’ll notice that many of the pioneers of new technologies do enjoy certain benefits – but not always.
For every Apple, Google or Microsoft there are tens of thousands of companies, startups, innovative companies that are financed with venture capital, which are no longer with us. They were also the first in their market, spending a lot of money on branding and marketing, setting up distribution channels just to get older birds to copy their techniques, innovate and emulate their prototypes – thus capturing most of the market share in the end.
Eventually, they also landed at their destination, albeit less tired, with less money spent, and they had plenty of energy to share in the profits, worms or food available at the destination market.
Recently, we have seen many lawsuits between Apple and other competing, imitation companies. Many of these companies were abroad, and they either stole patented information, stole patents, or directly copied Apple products.
In China, most consumers believe that paying the full price for American products is crazy if you can buy an exact copy or imitation for 10 percent of the price. In fact, you would be considered unreasonable, stupid and unreasonable if you decided to do the right thing and buy the original, not a fake.
This means that if you work for a company and buy a legitimate Microsoft program or Apple product, you will be considered stupid and perhaps not a very good money manager, and so you will not get a raise in your company – other employees actually laugh at you for your unwise decision to do the right thing. In this regard, there is an inherent problem in the cultural differences between Americans and Chinese.
When we enter the debate on pharmaceuticals, we see the same thing. In the United States, buying some drugs costs a lot of money, but in places like Africa, they buy fakes from other places where they have infringed patents made for the same chemical, and use them instead, in fact in Africa they require medication free. This means that the company, which conducted research and development, invested in patents and went through a difficult process by the FDA, and meanwhile spent hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases losing.
The copying company is rewarded for fraud, theft and theft of intellectual property. However, if we return this to the “bird flock analogy”, we can see that it is very common in nature. Thus, one could assume that imitation is a completely natural thing. And even if the United States has patent and intellectual property laws in place, these companies, business owners, and representatives of other cultures don’t understand what we’re talking about.
Of course, once we start borrowing their technology, it’s amazing how quickly they rediscover why patents and intellectual property rights are important. In many cases, if you can innovate, stay on the cutting edge of technology and keep moving fast, you can lead a flock and become a winning bird. Yes, it takes a lot of energy, and it’s almost American, but we’ll see that in the end the rest of the flock also won awards, although these were just some of the most innovative and powerful birds that brought them there.
If we want stronger birds (Eagles), we will have to reward successful innovations, not so that they are lazy, but so that they can benefit from research and development without attracting a giant flock of followers. If we don’t, we will find fewer companies introducing innovation and we will slow down technology development. If you are against technology, you may prefer this concept, but if you are for the development of humanity, you can understand why it is so important.
I would like to tell you that the next time you observe a flock of birds flying locally as they spin and turn, you can think about the dynamics of innovation in the marketplace, all the challenges we face in our world, and what we need to do to make sure the game remains fair to all concerned. We need to reward the pack leaders if we are going to continue the race around the clock. Please keep all this in mind.