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SXSW Imitation as Innovation Lessons from the Shanzhai

3/8/2013 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

From watches, bags and shoes to touchscreen tablets, fast food and electric cars -- you can find thousands of knockoff brands in China. Large, highly coordinated networks of innovative companies take the products and services we love in the U.S., alter them relentlessly and make them … better. Then they speed them to one of the world’s largest consumer markets and sell them at devastatingly low margins.

The problem with U.S. innovation? Our broken business models. American companies were built to be predictable, not adaptable. Trends like mobile, social and the cloud are major disruptive forces and businesses are struggling to keep up. Instead of fearing the Shanzhai, we can look at their 4 core tenets to reorganize the way we do business:

-Build nothing from scratch

-Innovate process at small scales

-Share as much as you can

-Act responsibly in the network

By adopting the philosophy of the Shanzhai “copycat culture,” companies can innovate faster and remain competitive.


Kris Gale

VP of Engineering

Yammer, Inc.

Lyn Jeffery

Research Dir

Institute for the Future

Learn More: SXSW Imitation as Innovation Lessons from the Shanzhai

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