It's a March morning in 2006 and I'm having breakfast with Robert Winquist. I show him a preliminary draft of this book, noting that he and his children's sticker company, VSi, in effect, started and ended the book. I direct his attention to Figure 1, the conceptual framework introduced in the Prologue. As I explain the components of the model, he begins to chuckle. "This describes everything we've gone through," he says.

He points to the "The Pack" Bubble in the diagram and recounts the ravages of the imitation and commoditization that he and his rivals have faced over the past few years. He concludes his tale of woe this way: "We (the vending supply companies) were demoralized. We used to phone each other and lament how bad it was. ...

Get Break From the Pack: How to Compete in a Copycat Economy now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.