Sunday, January 26, 2014

The benefits of copycatting

A blueprint for innovating (Techcrunch)?

Unexpectedly, the researchers found that imitation was beneficial. Or, in academic speak, “the substantial proportion of imitation present in improvements shows that imitated guesses were often the basis for further productive exploration.” In other words, imitation is never identical and the micro-experiments help increase the possibilities explored, ultimately leading to better performance.

Notably, if performance scores were hidden, “participants searched more broadly and randomly, and both quality and equity of exploration suffered.” That is, when we hide our successes, imitators have to experiment blindly.

As ScienceDaily explained, “the longer people played the game, the less they imitated others. The more players there were in a game, the higher the scores. The diversity of solutions decreased over the rounds, and scores increased.” Networks of innovation do learn, and unsuccessful strategies fall off like a vestigial limb.
I think the author overreaches when it comes prescriptive policies - but it's an interesting study nonetheless.

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