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Copy That In business, imitation is more than a form of flattery.

By April Y. Pennington

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Being a copycat has always been anchored by a sense of derision.But now Randall Rothenberg claims that imitating an idea is notonly efficient--it can be effective. The senior director ofintellectual capital at global strategy and technology consultingfirm Booz Allen Hamilton and contributor to The Big Moo: StopTrying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable explains howimitation is becoming a major path to business success.

Entrepreneur: You say imitation across industriesis a more effective and profitable strategy than the promotion ofinnovation and creativity. How so?

Randall Rothenberg: Big breakthrough ideas, ifsuccessful, can create new markets. But there's ample evidencethat some of the biggest businesses are built by taking existingideas and applying them in a new context. Research by Booz AllenHamilton looked at data about value creation across industries. Itfound that only four distinct ideas had been responsible for anoverwhelming majority of value creation in the U.S. over a 30-yearperiod: power retailing, where big-box stores can drive costs andconsumer prices down (Home Depot); mega-branding, which is thedevelopment of a powerful umbrella brand (Disney);focus/simplify/standardize, where process simplification allows forready multiplication and growth by relentlessly lowering costs(McDonald's); and value-chain bypass, where middlemen areeliminated, thus delivering lower prices or higher revenue(

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