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Last Updated on January 12, 2018

Copy Cats Are Boring. Why Is It Better To Be Original?

Copy Cats Are Boring. Why Is It Better To Be Original?

Plagiarism is rampant on the internet. It’s so easy for people to copy, paste, and claim an idea as their own. Unfortunately, lots of people get away with it. Some even thrive on the labors of others. They may be able to skate by, but what are they really getting out of copying someone else’s work?

The simple fact is, you can’t learn and grow if you don’t put in the effort.

We’re all on a quest for originality

Everyone wants to be unique. Originality showcases talent, and it gives you a competitive edge. People don’t want to buy an idea that has been repackaged. New ideas sell.

The pressure to be creative in a world in which everyone is creating and sharing all the time is enormous. To complicate matters, modern life doesn’t often allow us to have the time and focus that we need to innovate. When this happens, many people have a hard time coming up with new ideas and ways to solve problems.

At the first sign of a creative blockage, people may turn to the work of others for inspiration. Sometimes this is enough to get them on track, but they may also be tempted to copy someone else’s idea so that they can get their product out on time.

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Over time, a person can develop a habit of repackaging someone else’s work instead of coming up with fresh ideas. Operating in this fashion may provide short-term relief, but it’s a formula for failure.

    Plagiarism is like skipping levels in a video game

    Imagine you’re playing a game, and you get to a challenging level. Your friend is an expert at this game, so you hand the controller off to him. He easily completes the level, but when he returns the controller to you, you find the new level almost impossible to play.

    Video games, like life, are designed so that you can only advance when you get the skills that you need. Until you are ready to move on, you won’t be able to beat the level.

    Copying is like handing off the controller. You never actually learn how to do what you need to do because someone else did all the legwork. You miss out on developing any real understanding of whatever you’re trying to do when you just copy, paste, and make a few minor adjustments.

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    Just like you won’t have the skills to make it to the next level if you let someone else do the hard work in the game, you won’t have the knowledge to carry out future assignments if you don’t put in the time on the one in front of you. You’ll be stuck living in the shadows of others’ greatness. When you’re in over your head, you’ll be more tempted to continue plagiarizing in the future.

    You can’t copy the spirit of originality

    When someone comes up with something entirely new, there’s this beautiful process that brings it into being. Their experiences combined with their skillsets produce this innovation. This is an invisible but ever-present force in new ideas.

    A copycat won’t be able to give an idea new life because they don’t have the spark. They don’t understand why a material behaves the way it does, or why this model will work for their customers better than that other one.

    The depth of understanding that comes with going through the process of discovery just isn’t there. There’s no substance, and there’s no way to grow. It’s like trying to grow a tree by starting with the trunk instead of beginning with a seed and a root system.

    Copycats can never be first in anything, either. Someone who copies has to wait for somebody else to come up with the original idea before they can remix it for themselves. No matter what you make, it’s always going to be one step behind. It’s the knockoff– the less desirable version of the original. It’s a miserable way to live.

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      Accept nothing less than your personal best

      In The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, Twyla Tharp states:[1]

      “Our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable.”

      Instead of panicking and copying someone else’s work, embrace your discomfort and be original! It’s fine to be inspired by others’ works, but you don’t have to plagiarize. You have to believe that you can come up with your own one-of-a-kind idea.

      From the outside, there can be a fine line between being inspired by someone and copying, but if you’re the one completing the project, it’s easy to tell if you’re copying. If someone else is doing most of the work, your idea isn’t original.

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      Finding inspiration without resorting to plagiarism is not difficult. Diversifying the places from which you draw inspiration helps. Talk to others working in your field, read lots of books, and continue to consume content related to your work. This builds your frame of reference so that you can create something different.

      Becoming this well-informed is time-consuming, but it’s what will make you an authority in your field. As you learn more, you can learn to ask the right kinds of questions. Knowing what to ask leads you to come up with your own ideas.

      Plagiarism is a cop-out

      You are capable of doing profound things, but you have to give yourself a chance. No matter how tough it seems, keep striving to be an original. In the end, you’ll hold your head high knowing you’ve done something nobody has done before.

      Featured photo credit: Fancy Crave/ Minimography.com via fancycrave.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on December 5, 2018

      How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

      How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

      Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

      We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

      How do they do it?

      By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

      1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

      There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

      If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

      2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

      Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

      According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

      Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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      3. Demand Learning from Your Team

      CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

      “The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

      His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

      Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

      “We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

      Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

      4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

      Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

      Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

      • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
      • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
      • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
      • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
      • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
      • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

      5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

      Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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      Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

      • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
      • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
      • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
      • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
      • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

        “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

      Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

      6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

      The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

      Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

      You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

      7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

      Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

      But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

      On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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      • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
      • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
      • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
      • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

      8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

      Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

      When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

      9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

      The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

      What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

      Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

      10. Empower Your Employees

      Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

      They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

      Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

      You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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      If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

      11. Nurture Your Company Culture

      Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

      Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

      However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

      Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

      Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

      Be a Leader, Not a Boss

      Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

      However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

      In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

      Reference

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