I look for themes when it comes to great cultures and brands. I also happen to be rather mischievous, so I can recognize that quality in both people and companies. So I find it rather interesting that some of the greatest brands are based on… theft.
Many people know that Zappos.com is based on a culture of service. It was a gamble at the time when every dot com company was staying away from phone service to focus on price cutting and efficiency. I asked one of the original team members what inspired them to focus on service. “Most of us came out of Nordstrom, so honestly, it was all we knew.” Service – stolen from a brick and mortar and taken online.
Take Starbucks – Howard Schultz lifted the high-end coffee cafes right out of Italy and figured out how to scale it.
Take Apple – Steve Jobs literally lifted the computers with the original graphic interface right out of Xerox PARC.
Take the United States of America. The nation/state system was taken directly from the Iroquois native Americans.
So perhaps the best innovation question to your team is not – “Who has a great idea?” But instead is “Who knows something we can steal?”