Analogy of a flock of birds with the challenges of innovation and intellectual property

Have you ever sat in awe watching a local flock of birds as they make quick and abrupt changes of direction and the flock follows? Looking at local bird flocks, you can immediately see that they are very different from migrating bird flocks, as migrating birds fly in straight lines. It’s hard to say why the birds fly together in formation in local flocks and seem to challenge each other over who will lead the formation, but that seems to be what they are doing. With long-distance migrations, it’s obvious they do it for the aerodynamic advantage.

Now, I would like to take this analogy and offer you a thought. I’d like you to sit down and think about it for a moment as I compare this to the innovations and changes in any given industry, as industry leaders compete for position with new innovations, research and development, and other companies follow. Occasionally, the industry has a pretty good idea of ​​where it’s going in the future, but doesn’t know exactly how to get there, or the exact intended destination, it just knows that it will eventually get there.

Let’s take a look at Apple and its latest iPods, iPhones and iPads – you’ll have to admit, that’s a lot of innovation for one company in a short time. It seems that just when you think there can be no new innovations, Apple comes up with something new. They are definitely innovators in the personal technology industry, personal computers and who knows what else in the future. Every time they innovate, the herd follows. Some of the other companies or birds follow them very closely and try to imitate them almost exactly.

Other companies fall behind, taking it easy without trying to fight for the top position or keep up with them. Instead of the flock making a sharp right turn, they may simply adjust their trajectory vector slightly to catch up. In essence, the next companies, imitators and copiers of your innovations, patents and intellectual property spend much less energy, although you could loosely say that they are still part of the herd (industry).

Older or weaker birds do this more often, especially if they can’t keep up with younger, stronger birds, who may be displaying themselves to potential mates or competing for pecking order. One might wonder which strategy is better. Flying in the slipstream of the leader and thus in his wake like Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France, or falling behind the “Platoon” and flying less distance each time the herd turns in a different direction, it just keeps coming to indie . destiny with the rest of the birds.

If we look at Apple and its market capitalization, or a company like Google, or even Microsoft in the past, we see the innovators who, if they can keep innovating, tend to win the game. In a flock of birds, the lead birds most likely mate with the other birds of their choosing and remain at the top of the pecking order. Because of all that fancy flying and hard work, they are also probably stronger, more physically fit birds, and that is also a benefit.

There will always be leaders in any industry or field, and there will always be leeches joining the ride. Some would say the best strategy is to be the lead bird, or to leverage as often as possible using “first to market theory” and yet I would suggest to them in this age of rapid prototyping, cutthroat personal technology. branding and marketing deployments, that being first to market may not be prudent or even safe. That’s fine, but we find that many of the pioneers of new technology enjoy a certain advantage, but not always.

For every Apple or Google or Microsoft there are tens of thousands of companies, start-ups, innovative VC-funded firms that are no longer with us. They were also first in their market, spending a lot of money on branding and marketing, establishing distribution channels, just to have the older birds, copying their methods, innovations and imitating their prototypes, thus capturing the lion’s share of the market. market at the end.

After all, they, too, landed at the destination, albeit less tired, with less money spent, and had plenty of energy to partake of the profits, worms, or food available at the destination in the market.

Recently, we’ve been seeing a lot of lawsuits between Apple and other competing and copycat companies. Many of these companies have been abroad and have ripped off proprietary information, stolen patents, or directly copied Apple products.

In China, most consumers think it’s crazy to pay full price for American products when you can buy an exact replica or imitation for a tenth of the price. In fact, you would be considered reckless, stupid, and unwise if you decided to do the right thing and buy the original instead of the fake copy.

This means that if you are working in a company and you buy a legitimate Microsoft program or an Apple product, you would be considered stupid and maybe not a very good manager with money and therefore you would not get promoted in your company; other employees would. actually laugh at you for your wrong decision to do the right thing. There is an inherent problem in the cultural differences between Americans and Chinese in that regard.

When we get into the pharmaceutical debates we see the same thing. In the United States it costs a lot of money to buy certain types of drugs, but in places like Africa they buy imitations from other places where they have violated the patents that produce the same chemical compound and use those instead, in fact in Africa they require the free drugs. This means that the company that invested in research and development, invested in the patents, and went through the burdensome FDA process, and in the meantime spent hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases, loses out.

The copy company is rewarded for cheating, stealing and swindling intellectual property. However, if we take this back to the “flock of birds analogy”, we can see that this is very common in nature. Therefore, one might reason that imitation is perfectly natural. And even though we have patent and intellectual property laws in the United States, those companies, business owners, and other cultures don’t understand what we’re talking about.

Of course, as soon as we start borrowing their technologies, it’s amazing how quickly they rediscover why patents and intellectual property rights matter. In many cases, if you can constantly innovate and stay ahead of technology and move fast, you can lead the pack and become the winning bird. Yes, it takes a lot of energy to do it, and it’s pretty much the American way of doing it, but we’ll find that the rest of the herd eventually reaped the rewards too, albeit only a few. more innovative and stronger birds that got them there.

If we want stronger birds (Eagles) we are going to have to reward successful innovation, not to the point that they become lazy, but to the point that they can benefit from research and development, without attracting a giant flock of followers. If we don’t, we will find fewer companies innovating and slow technological progression. If you are against technology, you may be for that concept, but if you are for the advancement of humanity, you can see why this is so important.

I would like to suggest that the next time you see a flock of birds flying locally as they go round and round, you might think about the dynamics of innovation in the marketplace, all the challenges we face in our world, and what we need to do. to make sure the game is fair to all concerned. We must reward the leaders of the Flock if we are to continue to race against the clock of innovation. Please consider all this.

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