Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Plagiarism 101

For all of you that know my story I think most of you would agree that I have seen my fair share of stressful situations. In spite of all of my near death experiences there may be one that sticks out in my mind as being the most memorable. It is not the time I fell on a bow saw in third grade cutting my neck wide open, nor is it the time I thought to my self, “If fish can breath underwater why can’t I.” For the record, nearly drowning is off my to do list. No, one of the most death defying events in my life happened when my mouth engaged before my brain and I said the wrong thing to the wrong person. You are also wrong when you sit there reading this and are laughing while waiting to see what I said to my wife. Granted I have said many things to my wife that would be classified as brave, dangerous, or down right stupid, but these pale in comparison to this, my most death-defying action. I looked a librarian in the eye and said these words,”the key to innovation is plagiarism.” Yep, I said it. With that look that only a librarian can produce with a finger up to their lips and eyes that could bore a hole to China in seconds she looked at me and said, “excuse me?”. Yes, I did it. I repeated myself. What is interesting is after explaining myself, she had to agree with me. So I lived to write this blog.

I work with folks all the time who struggle with getting their message across. They spend no time at all on their message or way to much time trying to find a new way to tell their story. There are other organizations that are chiseling their message in stone and are looking for another chisel. What’s funny about this is the dyslexic guy knows there are less than 40 possible plots for any story. Some say there are only four plots. So for starters, if you tell a story you just changed the characters. 

Contrary to popular belief, I am not fond of making mistakes. Especially the ones that hurt me or other people. It kills me to watch people make mistakes that are avoidable. Understanding current and past history is a great way to learn from others’ mistakes and not repeat them. Learning from others’ mistakes is usually simpler and protects us and those we affect. My dad always says learning is what happens when you read the manual and an education is what you get when you don’t. Maybe you need to be dyslexic like me to find the humor in the statement that “plagiarism is copying anyone without giving them credit”. Well, quite frankly I can’t even spell the Ikea guy’s name who wrote the directions when putting together their furniture (how do you give the guy credit if you can’t even spell the guy’s name??). Yet I am supposed to copy whatever he drew on the directions?

I think I am done rambling and ready to get to the point. Every successful advertising campaign, leadership fad, program, fill in the blank has one thing in common. It worked before with another name. All that someone did is make it understandable to a new audience or generation. So if your company, organization or church is having a herd time getting your message across, take a look back and see when it quit working, then look at your audience and see how they are communicating and tweak the message as needed. Take a close look at others that are successfully communicating and copy it with your unique signature. A great example is  missions. Many churches across the country are struggling with declining numbers. Their message and actions haven’t changed in decades and they are confused why they aren’t getting anywhere. They do this while supporting missionaries around the world that have churches that are growing and thriving. The churches that take the basic principles of the missionaries they support are also growing and thriving. When fire professionals take basic pastoral care principles and apply them to people effected by disasters, people are thankful and calm. When the old, cold tactics are implemented, people are angry and frustrated. See? The key to innovation is plagiarism. Take what works and use it to positively change lives without hurting people or yourself. Within your area of influence it is considered innovative. For those who understand history, it is wise. Just don’t tell the librarian.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

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