Is it copying or is it learning?

Posted by & filed under Life, Tips of the Trade, Work.

When I was in Yachats recently, I saw a display of work by pre-school children who were recreating a couple of works by great Masters – Van Gogh and Picasso. At first, I was impressed by how well they did. Then, I realized that I often hear people say, “I could have created that.” It’s easy to replicate, yet harder to fashion an original of anything – whether it’s a cottage garden, a painting or a website.

An original requires thought and often a painstaking effort and tremendous amount of time. Once it’s finished, another person can quickly render it, and even add a few flourishes to make it more unique. Lesson: Truly, it’s easier to follow than it is to lead.

Reflecting on those watercolors in Yachats, I’ve realized that the children were exposed to some of the world’s finest painters and connected with them by trying to make their best copy of that work. Education is about having a wide array of experiences, so we learn to appreciate our world and all its richness. And those children were well-educated through this exercise.
In business, we often go through a similar process. We call it benchmarking. We search for companies and practices that impress us and that we want to emulate. Often, we find ways to incorporate their best practices into our organization’s operation and culture. We may even do this as we browse books, magazines and digital content – looking for new ideas and inspiration.

Let’s celebrate original works, because they expose us to new ideas and ways of doing things. Let’s also celebrate our ability to learn from those original works and integrate them into our lives. Perhaps, imitation is the best form of flattery?

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Liz Cawood

Liz Cawood


Liz’s creative outlet is writing – and gardening. She’s dabbled in fabric arts and done a few oils, and even did some rock painting for “Flood the Streets with Art” last November. She’s a voracious consumer of content and enjoys the mental gymnastics of playing with ideas.