Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.
- Steve Jobs, 1996 Wired Interview (via MyEDOL)
"Connecting things" -- behind that is the premise that the full picture was already there; it just needed the lines that connect the dots.
I'm currently reading The Case for Creativity and there's a full chapter about originality and our industry's obsession with it. Being accused of copycatting is often just as condemning as being outright guilty of the act. But it's a lot easier than we think to have the same idea at the same time as another person; examples proliferate in science, technology, art and -- obviously -- in advertising.
Many thinkers have surmised that when it's "time" for something, that idea just appears in the ether, ready and waiting to be claimed by unconnected minds who start thinking in its direction. (Maybe that's why execution is considered a lot more valuable than ideas. On the other hand, artists work fiercely to protect their ideas; in a way, they're the only babies we get to have. But that's another discussion entirely.)
This notion of ideas hanging in the air like ripe fruit resembles a theory biologist Rupert Sheldrake has called "morphic resonance": the notion that once you have an idea, it is that much easier for another human to conceive it -- in the same way that once a rat gets through a maze, the exit is instantly that much easier to find for all other rats in the universe.
We're somehow all psychically connected to a fast-moving energy hive that doesn't care who thought what first; once a thought or a sentiment's there, it's there for the taking. I know this all sounds mystic as hell, but in any case it's interesting to think about.
And if morphic resonance just rubs you wrong, that's okay, too; environment, our shared news streams, technology's "logical next step", the circles we run in and conversations we have all make it more likely two unrelated people will conceive similar ideas at the same time.
Or maybe they really are copying. *Shrugs*