The phrase is from John Lennon who stole it from TS Elliott (‘amateur poets borrow; mature poets steal’). There are other names who borrow it as well. Picasso is in the list
The rule applies to management. Management has been too much on the borrowing side and less in the stealing one. Innovation and excellence requires looking out. Looking at the outside world and looking at the less obvious places.
I have shared before that I have a habit of asking my clients to make a list of their competitors (usually hassle free, fast exercise), bring it to the flip chart, put the flip chart aside and then start comparing themselves with anybody else who is not the lists.
You’ll learn more from outside that list. Dare I say you’ll be stealing more, whilst is you use the flipchart list, you are bound to borrow.
In my world of large scale change, Viral Change ™, we steal form Social Movements organizations (SMO)whilst other borrow from Harvard Business School.