Thursday, May 28, 2015

Innovate or Imitate? "The Same, Only Different"

     Some advise us to be creative, think outside the box, offer something new to the world. Others warn against ignoring the wisdom of the marketplace: copy what others have already show works. What should we do?

     An advertising guru, I forget who, said we should show that our product is “the same, only different.” The same, in that it fits into a niche already there. Different, in that it is better than its competitors and thus warrants purchasing.

     Creativity provides the solution to this seeming dilemma. Apple computers were “the same,” in being personal computers for the desktop and eventually being readily portable. Yet they were “different,” aesthetically better, easier to use. They sold themselves.

     Musical and literary works fall into categories, genres, that indicate what the listener or reader can expect, a sameness. The most successful, however, find ways to ring variations on the genre’s typical patterns, thus display differences, without disappointing the audience.

     So, generally be “the same, but different,” although the greatest contributions will come from those who are truly innovative. Go for that, when you can, when you are feeling brave.



Dr. Cooper ( is a retired scientist, now a writer, editor, and writing coach. His first book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, was published by Outskirts Press in 2011 and is available from Outskirts Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, in paperback and ebook formats; also available are two memoirs he subsequently co-authored, The Shield of Gold and Kidnapped Twice, and two memoirs he edited, High Shoes and Bloomers and But…at What Cost. On Twitter, he’s @douglaswcooper. His editing and coaching site is

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