_Graphically told, the story of an important sale with the salesman's picture alongside makes double use of the instinct of imitation. It suggests forcibly that every man in the field can duplicate the achievement and tells how he can do it_.
Frequently, examples of initiative and efficiency are borrowed from outside organizations. ``Carrying a message to Garcia'' has long been a business synonym for immediate and effective execution of orders. One big company, employing thousands of mechanics and developing all its executives and skilled experts from boys and men within the or-
ganization, has printed in its house organ studies of all the great American and English inventors from Stephenson and Fulton to Edison and Westinghouse. These histories emphasize the facts that these men were self- taught and bench-trained, and that their achievements can be imitated by every intelligent mechanic in the organization.
_In teaching and learning by imitation certain modifying facts are to be kept constantly in mind. We tend to imitate everything which catches our attention, but certain things appeal more powerfully than others_.
The acts of those whom I admire are particularly contagious, but I remain indifferent to the acts of those who are uninteresting. Acts showing a skill to which I aspire are immediately imitated, while acts representing stages of development from which I have escaped are less likely to be imitated. We imitate the acts of hearty, jovial individuals more than the acts of others. This point cannot be pressed too far since a surly and selfish individual often seems to corrupt a whole
group. Also it is not always the acts which I admire that are imitated. If I am frequently with a lame person, I am in danger of acquiring a limp; one who stutters is clearly injurious to my freedom of speech; round-shouldered friends may at first cause me to straighten up, but soon I am in danger of a droop.
That imitation is merely something to be avoided by teachers, employers, and foremen is an idea soon banished when the importance and complexity of the process is comprehended. In teaching we find precept inferior to example wherever the latter is possible. Particularly in teaching all sorts of acts of skill the imitation of perfect models is the first resort. In business, however, insufficient consideration has been given to the possibilities of imitation in increasing human efficiency.
_In the preparation of this article representative business men who had been especially successful in dealing with employees were asked the following questions_:--
In increasing the efficiency of your employees do you utilize imitation by
(1) placing efficient workmen where they may be imitated by the less efficient?
(2) having the men visit highly efficient establishments?
(3) bringing to the attention of your men the lives of successful men and the work of successful houses?
(4) bringing frequently to the attention of the men model methods of work?
(5) Have you observed any pronounced instance of increase or decrease in the work of a department due to imitation?
The men interviewed took a decided interest in the subject, and their answers contained much of general value. Some admitted that they had never made any conscious effort to utilize imitation as implied in the first four questions. Many others had made particular use of one or more of the methods. A few of the firms interviewed had employed all four methods with entire satisfaction.
The following is a fair representative of the answers. It is the response of a very successful general manager of a railroad:--
``I beg to give you below the answer to the questions which you have asked:--
``1. The superintendent and foremen in our shops are the most efficient we can find. They are imitated, and thus influence the less efficient.
``2. We have the heads of our departments visit other shops to see how they are progressing in the same line.