Why Imitation may be the Best Form of Supply Chain Innovation … For Many

A recent article over on Forbes on how imitation with innovation reduces risk in startups had some great reasons why imitation with innovation is often superior to pursuing disruptive technology — reasons which are just as applicable to supply chain for the average company. While its true that some companies will need a next generation disruptive supply management strategy to get a performance gain, this is only true of the roughly 10% of companies that have been applying leading supply chain practices for close to a decade. Until a company has maximized value from current supply chain practices, it is likely that the company is not going to be ready to maximize value from next level supply management techniques.

Plus, as per the article, for an average company, imitating the leaders:

  • avoids large initial investments until the ROI is there
    which is important as Supply Management is not going to look good if it spends Millions of dollars before it realizes the savings to justify the investment
  • and reduces the cost of Supply Management innovation
    as the costs to be the first inventor are always a third higher statistically and any attempts to patent just make imitation easier due to disclosure requirements (as a smart technologist can work around any patent using techniques such as innovation on demand)
  • while learning from competitors and early adopters
    who will be the first to encounter the gotchas associated with implementation screw-ups and perfect the techniques
  • who are actively progressing the state of the art
    because once a couple of big players prove a new technique has value, they will find more and quicker ways to extract maximum value from the technique

Plus, initially it will be easier to get funding for the technology and resources you need to make Supply Management a success if you can point to a respected competitor and say that this technology or methodology saved them millions. And then, when Supply Management has proven itself, it will be much easier to get investment for next generation disruptive Supply Management technologies and methodologies. Just don’t lose site of the ultimate goal — Next Generation Supply Management — and the organization will eventually reach its goal with persistence and smart, initial, application of imitation with innovation.