Friday, December 02, 2005


I got involved recently in a discussion with a friend about imitation of Management Gurus. Tom Peters is the best Management Guru as far as I am concerned and there are some poor imitations who are just that – imitations.

Tom Peters has worked for over 25 years to establish his reputation as the worlds leading Management Guru - he is no 'overnight flash in the pan.' It has been hard work with a lot of metaphorical blood, sweat and tears!

I prefer to listen to or read the original person but sad to say there are those who make a living and something of a reputation by copying the original. I guess that is sadly true in all walks of life.

Of course we all know there are very few genuinely original thinkers. Indeed most progress has come about in our development by building on the ideas of others and I have no problem with that. We all do it.

What really annoys me is when someone’s original work is not only copied but the person copying it does so blatantly without even crediting the originator of that work.

I am reading a wonderful book at the moment called Searching Issues by Nicky Gumbel and Nicky uses a wonderful analogy to illustrate the difference between the New Age Movement and Christianity.

I suggest we can use this example in the world of business, management or indeed any walk of life when discussing counterfeits. My opinion is we should try to be ourselves whilst of course learning from the people we admire most and even take 'bits of them' for yourself - but always remain your own person and make your own unique mark on the world.

Anyway .. Enough of my ramblings ..This is what Nicky says in the book …I hope you like it;

The way to spot a counterfeit is to know the real thing really well. Caryl Matrisciana uses a helpful analogy

‘Mum’s been working at the bank for over a year’ my friend Chris told me ‘and she’s been getting the most amazing education.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘She’s been learning all about money.’

‘I guess she’d have to know about money if she’s going to work in a bank’ I laughed.

Chris smiled. ‘I mean she’s really learning about money. They are teaching her to know the colour of each bill, the size of it, even the way its water marked. They are showing her the details of the inks and papers.’

‘How do they teach her?’

‘Well they just keep having her handle it. They point out all the various things they want her to remember. But they figure the more she works with money, feels it, counts it, and stacks it, the more familiar it’ll be to her.’

‘That makes sense I suppose. But what’s the point?’

‘Here’s the point. Yesterday they blindfolded her. They slipped a couple of counterfeit bills in her stack of money. She picked them out by touch.’

‘So she’s studying counterfeit money too then?’

'No … that’s just it. The people at the bank know that a person doesn’t need to study the counterfeits.’

‘I see. But it seems as if they’re going to a lot of trouble. Doesn’t it?’

‘Not really. The bank knows that the counterfeits are getting better and better, more and more sophisticated. And it’s been proved a thousand times over that if a bank teller knows the real money extremely well, he can’t be fooled by the counterfeit.’


felixgerena05 said...

Excellent post, Trevor. In these times when leading brands get most of the attention and the reward of public recognition, there should exist a more acute consciousness of the brands that offer an authentic experience and those who are taking advantage of other´s work and merit. Why?

Because it´s the only justification to the success of some brands and the anonimity of others.

I think your example is very good. The more you get involved with authentic leadership the faster you recognize counterfeits.

omm said...

I am pro the imitators of TP, I wish we had more like him. I prefer someone to imitate TP than to Eminem's, for instance.

Imitation it's been always really useful for starting point -we probably started imitating the adults around ourselves, that is, mimesis-, however all copy leaves a pose and after certain time it comes another natural stage that I'd refer to as related rather to evoquation, where it will be easier to mention the original, the master, with deference and gratitude. This indeed, given that the lessons are really good LOL

Anyway, I didn't know as much as you seem to know about TP's trayectory Trevor but honestly I don't think imitators will take his sleep at night. He is quite busy being himself.

Trevor Gay said...

Felix - I agree.

Omara - I think we all have role models that we like to study and we all take ‘pieces’ of those who we respect most. There is nothing wrong with that. Where I get upset is that people do not credit other people with ideas that they have blatantly used. In the academic world we are always taught to identify our bibliography and reference our sources. This is a good discipline that should be carried into our everyday life and work. My question must be - WHY would someone not want to credit others for the work?

Sriram said...

Originality is ESSENTIAL but not MANDATORY...what i'm tryin to say is not to ape someone blatantly (ofcourse, one has to give credit to the originator / inventor) but if a concept / idea is to be passed / communicated to a certain sect of audience who supposedly dont have or have been deprived of that...I believe there is absolutely no harm in conveying the same (ofcourse with DUE credits to the originator). Here, I'd like to quote the great G.B.Shaw who used to say "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."...WOW!!!

Trevor Gay said...

That's a good story Sriram - I like it.

Mike Gardner said...

"Steal from one person and that's plagiarism. Steal from many people and that's research."

This quote has been attributed to several writers over the last fifty years, but it still seems to be true.

Trevor, you know I take Tom Peters with a (large) grain of salt. You will see that Tom's work is not all original, either. If you look at his slides, you will see he takes the best ideas from many other people and synthesizes them into his own routine. Tom always makes sure to attribute, which makes a BIG difference to me. But, it is difficult for me to take him too seriously because he is who he is.

Who exactly has been horning in on Dr. Peters' routine that's got you stirred up, Trevor? Please warn us away with some specifics!

By the way, you know the only reason they are called "gurus" is because "charlatan" is too hard to spell, don't you? ;-)