Innovate, don’t imitate.
The problem with taking someone else’s idea and doing it a little better is that it’s just as easy for the next company to improve it a little bit more. Cheaper labor. Faster machines. The improvement becomes a linear asymptote, until making any further improvement is costlier than the benefit gained.
Instead, dream up what people would love. Then create it.
I say dream it because nobody will ask for it. Before they existed, nobody asked for:
– the iPod
– Build a Bear workshop
– Blue Man Group
– online check-in
– The W hotels
Nobody ever said, “wow, you know I really love writing extremely short blog posts. I wish there was a website that limited mine to 140 characters or less. THAT would be great.”
Doing something just a little better can make a few dollars in the short run but if you can tighten the screws, someone else can tighten them a bit more.
Zappos didn’t sell shoes online just a little bit better. If that was the plan, they could have stopped when they offered more sizes, colors and styles than anyone else. They dreamed that customers would love the best customer service they’ve ever experienced, online or in person. They were right (and did over $1B in sales last year).
Whether you are thinking of starting a new business or improving your existing business, ask yourself, “what would people love”?
Then build it.