Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery

Is “imitation” the sincerest form of flattery or is it just blatant plagiarism?

If you have ever shared a great idea, it is probably happened to you.  You are sitting at a company call and hear your words… your exact words spoken by another as their own.  Sometimes they may say “I can’t remember where I heard this” other times they don’t even go that far.

As a speaker and trainer I am probably more cognizant of the practice.  I have to be careful both in the protection of my work product and the respect of other people’s work product.  Lawsuits happen in my world over ideas and concepts.

As a direct sales leader plagiarism results in hurt feelings, an unwillingness to share and bad blood among teams.     As the originator of the idea, you no doubt put time (sometimes years) into building and perfecting your concept.  It can be painful to have another leader receive accolades and praise for that work.  It can leave you feeling marginalized and even violated.

It is uncomfortable to bring it up after the fact, because you don’t want to be “that person”.  You don’t want to stir up drama or worse, look petty.   So do you let it lie and quietly stop sharing?  If you don’t share what is working for you, you run the risk of others saying you are not a team player.  What’s a girl or guy to do?

The first thing to understand is you are 100% right… it is 100% wrong to pass another person’s idea off as your own.  In other industries people are sued and discredited for doing so.   In our industry “borrowing” of ideas and imagery has become so rampant in that many people no longer even know it is wrong.  Sadly, the practice is not unique to direct sales.  It is also rampant in blogging.  People are so desperate for content that they will cut and paste and entire blog as their own.  (For all I know, this entry is on 100 other blogs by now.  I hope they corrected my typos.  LOL). It is wrong in any industry.

To help set the record straight, let’s review the definition of plagiarism. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (see what I did there?  I properly cited my source.), to “plagiarize” means:

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
  • to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

Examples of plagiarism (according, again with the citation) include:

  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

To those that say “there is nothing new under the sun”, I say you are correct.  I also say it never hurts to tip your hat towards your inspiration regardless of how much you may have tweaked or perfected the original concept.  A candle loses nothing by shining on another.  Doing so keeps you on the right side of intellectual property laws, fosters good will and has the bonus of making you look both professional and generous.

What do you think?  Is acknowledgement or imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Let me hear from you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s