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When Stealing is Flattery

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Businesses need to improve, and that often requires innovation and creativity. But sometimes the best ideas to implement are the ones that have already been done.

This advice applies to everything from your sales process to your hiring methods. And since you’re constantly reading articles like this one looking for advice to improve your workplace productivity or to grow your business overall, you must think other people have some decent thoughts.

You might call this learning. But another way to think about it stealing. After all, these aren’t your ideas. You’re taking them and using them.

Thief Caught Stealing

© Flickr user *sax

A great example is producing material for your marketing campaigns. I know it’s really hard to find stuff to write about for your email newsletter. You rack your brain for content, but nothing comes out. Let me make a pointed suggestion. Why not steal something instead?

I don’t mean you should break into your competitors office, take their newsletter draft off their computers, and then delete the originals. (Although that would make for a great Tom Cruise movie.) Instead, I’m talking about quoting someone else and giving them credit.

Why Borrowers Benefit

Human psychology makes this technique incredibly powerful. Here’s how the brain works: when I hear you talking about someone else, I associate my thoughts about that other person with you. That’s why quoting smart people makes us sound smart. We don’t do anything but memorize a quote, yet we seem wise just by uttering someone else’s words. If the person we are quoting finds out we appreciate their ideas and have given them due credit, they will likely beam with pride. Everybody wins!

So here’s how you “steal content” for your website or email newsletter:

  1. Find an article in a popular blog or industry publication.
  2. Write an introductory sentence or two, such as: “We were reading the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review and came across an article…”
  3. Quote a couple of paragraphs from the source article. As long as you take only a small percentage of the original piece and provide complete attribution, you are likely well within your rights.
  4. Provide a link to the article so people can read it in full.
  5. Add some more commentary of your own on the piece.

That’s it! Free content for your customers and prospects without too much work. And now you know the secret, you’re going to see it everywhere. People love great content. Find some and share it with them.

Expanding the Idea But Knowing the Limits

If this works for marketing content, it can work for marketing strategy. If it works for marketing strategy, it can work for any kind of business strategy. You can do what other people do and expect to get at least similar results.

Where does this end? What can’t you duplicate? A good quote on this topic comes from venture capitalist Peter Thiel:

The next Bill Gates will not start an operating system. The next Larry Page won’t start a search engine. The next Mark Zuckerberg won’t start a social network company. If you are copying these people, you are not learning from them.

You can steal ideas from other people for everyday activities, but core aspects of your business need to be original. That’s going to set your direction into unchartered waters and lead you to wherever you need to go.

And if all else fails, remember that you can always borrow from yourself. The blog you are reading was cribbed from one I wrote years ago for Delivra. That should be a good reminder that what’s old is new again; and that you can repurpose, reuse, and rethink what has already been done.

Go forth and steal!

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
@lorraineball First probably depends on the business. But second is likely training, especially with regard to sales. - 19 hours ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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