A new fashion brand launches. A band or a solo artist release a new album or single. An artist reveals their latest works. These things happen many times over, every single day, all over the world. How much of the output will be original?
Nothing is truly original. Everyone has their influences whether they admit it or not. The sheer number of people creating something new at the same time also means that the law of averages comes into play. 100% originality can’t be achieved so it can’t be the goal either.
The goal can be to create something original in that it is organic. By organic, I mean the creator is not looking over at the person in the next lane to see what they are doing. Too many cues from peers in the same field leads to a bland, homogenous output. That’s why a top 40 hit can sound so similar to something you’ve already heard and why when one fashion brand has success with a particular item or style, next season there are 500 just like it. This is why trends emerge, it’s also where the late majority and laggards catch on. Something that is ‘in’ right now is fashionable whereas something worthwhile, that can stand the test of time is stylish. This is true for fashion as it is for everything else.
Can we then make our goal to be as original as possible? Yes. Ignoring, to a point, what is already working in the marketplace and creating something for innovators and early adopters is where the fun lies. This is where discoveries are made, die hard fans are born and recognition for having created something original is achieved. In business and the arts, if you truly care about what you are creating, for reasons besides pure financial gain at all costs, being as original as possible is your target.
It is better to be the benchmark, the purple cow, the beacon that everyone follows than to be lost in a sea of bland obscurity.