Every industry today is facing disruption and change at a speed that we have never seen before. E-commerce is challenging Retail. Technology companies are challenging banks. 3D Printing is challenging traditional manufacturing. Innovation is no longer a nice-to-have capability in your organization; it is a critical component of your future success. But the innovation of your products and services alone is not enough. You need to be looking more broadly at your entire business and industry to truly future-proof your organization. You need to look for cross-industry innovation and seek converging trends to lead your category and organization into the future.
What Is Cross-Industry Innovation?
Cross-Industry Innovation is the process of identifying analogies and trends or drawing approaches from other industries and applying them to your own business. Some examples which might help you better connect to the concept are:
Service: Baggage Carousel Meets Sushi Bar
This sushi bar implemented an airport-style baggage carousel on their dining top to allow customers to simply pick up what they liked as it passed by them. This innovative design idea creates a unique customer experience while simplifying the order transaction.
Product: Eggs Meet Wine
Inspired by the moulded pulp egg cartons that we are all familiar with, packaging companies are now offering the same style shippers to wine manufacturers and other businesses who need to ship fragile or delicate goods.
Business Model: Mobile Phones Meet Car Insurance
Norwich Union in the UK has introduced a new Car Insurance product inspired by the mobile telephone industry. Their new “pay-as-you-drive” insurance mirrors the “pay-as-you-go” plans offered by most mobile phone providers around the world.
The Benefits of Cross-Industry Innovation
Generally, innovation efforts at most organizations focus on the known business and industry. Product extensions, new features, or new services designed for the existing customer base are the most commonly cited innovation initiatives. But these in-industry innovation efforts only constitute incremental innovations. They are small changes which may support small growth or client retention, but which rarely result in significant transformational growth.
The examples cited above create higher level value which results in breakout or disruptive innovations. These innovations lead to much higher returns for your company, opening new markets or customer segments to your products and services. The baggage claim style sushi bar allows for quick-service dining but retains the high touch and fresh feel of a world-class sushi bar. The egg carton inspired shippers open packaging companies to any market that requires shipping solutions for delicate goods. A pay-as-you-drive insurance model completely changes the economics of car insurance for consumers.
Reaching beyond your industry for inspiration and seeking out converging trends will ignite the cross-industry innovation engine in your company if you make it a part of your day-to-day innovation approach.
Where To Find Cross-Industry Innovation Inspiration
There are hundreds of websites that provide information about trends and innovations across multiple industries. Some are focused on highlighting new innovations and technologies. Others provide tools and approaches for drawing inspiration across industry. One of my favourites simply highlights and connects trends across industries in an endless stream of new ideas.
Jeremy Gutsche started collecting trends while researching new opportunities to start a new business. His database and reach on the internet gained momentum, and he recognized the value of what he was collating. Now, after several years of development and a focus on categorizing the data he was collecting, TrendHunter has grown into the world leader in innovative ideas, insights, and tailored research and data for innovation.
Whether you choose to engage the TrendHunter team through their professional offerings or simply use their free content for inspiration, you can quickly filter the content down to ideas which are relevant to your business. Trends are highlighted as individual ideas or lists and are categorized to fit into one or more general categories which are easy to browse. Are you looking for retail trends and ideas? Simply go to Business and then Retail and you’ll see thousands of retail or retail connected trends. Perhaps you want to explore sports culture trends which may affect your retail sports equipment store? Check out Lifestyle and then Sports to see what’s happening around the world.
Pulling Cross-Industry Innovation Together
Wherever you choose to find your inspiration, you need to constantly be on the lookout for new products, services, and business models which you can adapt to your business or industry. Become curious everywhere you go and make it a habit of writing down ideas when they come to you. Force yourself to think about the reasons an idea or concept might apply to your business even though it runs contrary to the way things have traditionally worked.
Finally, force yourself to include these cross-industry innovation ideas in your innovation pipeline. Whether they turn into real products and services is less important than exercising the muscles to experiment with them. Eventually one of these cross-industry ideas will turn from a bad idea into a good idea, and you will experience the 10X+ growth that is possible.
Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.