What’s wrong with copycats?
The problem, said author Howard Yu, is that whenever a company tries to innovate, “almost overnight they get copied … it is getting harder and harder to differentiate your product in the marketplace. That is the prime concern for a lot of executives and managers.”
What can companies do?
Getting copied is not a recent phenomenon. It has been happening throughout the centuries. The first part of the book, said Yu, is discussing how to stay on top of the competition, not just for the next quarter, but for the next century. Nothing can remain unique forever — anything can get copied. But, Yu noted, a company can survive and thrive by leaping from one knowledge discipline to the next.
Take, for example, the pharmaceutical industry — and specifically Switzerland, which has never really been overturned as the capital of pharmaceutical research. This is because, for more than 200 years, Switzerland has found new ways to perform their research and synthesize new pharmaceuticals. It is this staying ahead of the competition, this leaping Yu said, that allows Switzerland not to be copied or disrupted by emerging market firms. “They are still the pioneers in their own industry … and that is the winning formula over the long run,” Yu said.
How do you know when to leap?
“Leaders and managers and executives need to recognize what type of world we are living in,” Yu said. Heads of companies need to recognize things like “the ubiquitousness of connectivity, increasing automation and the consequent need for managerial creativity.” If we are operating in a very narrow domain of knowledge, then “it can be automated overnight,” but if it is about understanding human emotion across different knowledge domains, then that becomes a human advantage. That is how we inoculate ourselves against automation. And so, Yu said, leaders need to be “problem solvers” to survive what is most likely in store for the future of white-collar workers.
Is AI a threat to jobs?
Yu would argue that “the future is bright.” Although certain jobs get automated, more jobs get created to handle automation. Asked about intellectual property, Yu said that, just like with his leap theory, if inventors of ideas and products keep creating and going “bigger and bigger,” cheats and copycats will not be able to catch up. Thriving comes down to staying ahead of the competition and always innovating, improving and moving forward. That way, companies will have less of a chance of being copied in a copycat world — and have less of a chance of being disrupted by another emerging market.
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