"It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you're doing," a young Steve Jobs once told an interviewer, adding, "Picasso had a saying: 'Good artists copy; great artists steal.'"

Whether the great artist ever said exactly that is a matter of debate, but it is clear that the sentiment has been shared by creators of all stripes for ages. Perhaps it's an idea your business could benefit from getting behind.

How? Try a 'swipe file.'

Why It's Smart to Steal

"Swipe files began as a means for copywriters to store tested and proven advertising letters, and the practice has since blossomed to a huge number of industries," Buffer, which utilizes the idea itself, recently explained on its blog. "Newspaper reporters call theirs a 'morgue' file--it stores the dead things that you'll reanimate later. Designers and artists have variations of swipe files at Dribbble and Ffffound." 

Buffer is not the only company recommending a little creative theft when it comes to your marketing and copywriting. Vero, an email-marketing startup, also recently listed starting a swipe file as one of the top simple actions entrepreneurs can take to improve their marketing.

"This is the first and most important thing you can do to improve your own email marketing," writes Jimmy Daly on Vero's blog. "First, set up a label (in Gmail) or folder in your inbox and title it 'Swipe File.' Anytime you see a great subject line, a good offer, a beautiful design, or great copy, just add the message to your swipe file. Pretty soon, you'll have a repository of inspiration that you can tap into when you are working on your own campaigns." 

How to Be a Better Bandit

If you want to get even more sophisticated, you can set up subfolders to separate out what exactly inspired you about whatever you're stealing, such as "Great Subject Lines" or "Blog-Post Ideas." But your email inbox isn't the only place you can locate your swipe file. There are plenty of other tools out there if you don't want to have yet another reason to get sucked down the email rabbit hole.

The Buffer team uses Trello, it reports, but in its blog post, Buffer also offers several other suggestions:

  • Evernote: "Probably the most popular bookmarking tool," Buffer notes, "Evernote has an incredibly deep assortment of clipping and saving features." 
  • Icebergs: Use this more visual tool to create an idea board where you can collect screen grabs, uploaded files, text, video, and notes.
  • Gimme Bar: Buffer says: "Much like Icebergs, Gimme Bar lets you save whatever inspiration you find online--even bits of text that stand out to you in the body of your posts. It also provides quick and easy linking to tweets and videos."