Creative swiping – how to steal things

Creative swiping is a term coined by Tom Peters.  It means taking an idea from one organisation and giving it a little twist to apply it to your own business.

It doesn’t mean copying your competitor’s ideas (although there’s a lot to be learnt from competitors) or directly applying something from a business book (although I spend a lot of time doing this too.)

The secret is in the twist

Creative swiping is all about the twist.  It’s about taking the idea from somewhere else and applying it in a different way.  Most of all, it’s about having an open mind and being downright nosy about how and why other people do things in their organisation and being able to take the ideas and twist them into improvements in your marketing and your business.

Swiping from Waitrose

One of my clients did some creative swiping from Waitrose the other day.  No, not shoplifting!  She doesn’t run a shop, she runs a consultancy company selling to some of the world’s biggest companies.  And we’re working on a way to show off some of her ideas and get more people to buy because they’re blown away by her ideas.  Also known as a “thought leadership” strategy.

When my client was in Waitrose, she saw how they’d laid out a theme of various items which all went together.  It might have been all the ingredients for a barbeque, together with Pimms and all the bits to go in Pimms, plus gin, tonic and cucumber.  Or everything you’d need to make a filling breakfast for the family in super quick time.

My client creatively swiped this idea and applied it to her own marketing, so now she can offer all the different tools she would use with her clients, explained how and why they went together and made some suggestions about what sort of situations would be suited to the different combinations.  And then she put different combinations on show on her website, highlighting different areas each month.

Some of this is the idea of curated content, which I talk about here, but the extra twist is that she was copying the Waitrose idea of putting each combination on show in a different way each month.  That made it very clever indeed.

Get obsessed with creative swiping

If you want to make your business stand out from the crowd, instead of wandering around Waitrose wondering what to have for tea, think about what you can creatively swipe.  Have a look at ideas from completely different businesses and see what you can steal.  See what they do to really look after their customers, or to minimise the amount of time servicing customers.

Next time you’re at the doctor’s, think about what you’d do to improve the process and then swipe that idea for your business.  When you’re watching a crime drama on TV, think about how the serial killer has been so efficient as to get away with it for all this time, and swipe that idea, without the body bags.

Help with swiping

If you’ve got some ideas you’ve swiped and you’d like some help testing them out, or if you are at a complete loss as to how to improve your marketing and your business, you’re on the right website.


And for more ways to use your ideas

The difference between a space rocket and a donkey

The 10-minute team meeting

How to become really popular – lessons from Daniel Kitson