Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery when it comes to innovation, or is it more a case of organizations being unable to innovate on their own—so copying someone else is better than nothing?
Marketing is infamous for knocking off unique, successful campaigns. For example, when the local office of Fallon produced the first series of BMW short films, which were deemed a success both creatively and from a results perspective, it wasn't long thereafter that other brands had their own short films. Innovative? Or just an example of being unable to come with something original on their own? My vote's for the latter.
There have been increasing accounts of companies following in the footsteps of Google, which probably mimicked what 3M had already been doing for decades, giving employees set times to “play,” hoping to spark great ideas. Organized spontaneity: How’s that for an oxymoron? And it’s not working very well for a number of reasons, the primary one being that if people aren’t motivated (intrinsically or extrinsically) to generate ideas on their own, chances are they aren’t engaged enough to come up with greatness during an hour or two of mandatory playtime.
The reason it works for Google and has worked for 3M for decades is that their programs evolved rather than being mandatory, and the participants are naturally motivated individuals.
Some companies are providing a financial incentive for employees to come up with ideas, and some of the more innovative ones are allowing their employees to retain ownership of the ideas with an option for companies to buy into the development and potential financial rewards. And I think more forward-thinking organizations are going to move toward programs like that in the future.
In an ideas economy, employees who can successfully innovate are going to realize that the free-agent market for their services is much more lucrative and rewarding than mandatory playtime.