Did you know that the best solutions to your business problems can come from outside of your industry? A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review looked at how 3 different groups (roofers, carpenters, and inline skaters) would come up with ideas on how to redesign safer gear for each of the three industries .The study found that each group was significantly better at thinking of novel solutions for the other fields than for its own.
An example often touted is the 3M development of cheaper and more sterile surgical drapes. Their inspiration for solutions came from completely different industries: veterinarians who had to manage infection control in very chaotic conditions and Hollywood makeup artists who were experts at applying skin materials without irritation or sticking. Two different types of innovative products were developed as a result: a line of handheld devices to stick anti-microbial substances to the skin and another line of products to make catheters more sterile. Thank you innovation!
Service Based Industries
Having worked almost exclusively in packaged goods marketing for the past 20 years, I discovered that the B2B service based companies were also suffering from the need to differentiate and to grow their sales. The deep training I had in consumer insights and B2C marketing strategies were almost foreign to this new niche. Many B2B CEOs were guessing at their strategy and happy to coast on referrals. The only true marketing that was being done wasn’t in line with any strategy. Online marketing was the new shiny ball that every company thought would grow its sales beyond any previous levels. When I used the techniques of systematic, scientific fact gathering to create a marketing strategy to then ensure a pipeline, many of my B2B clients were amazed at the new changes (positive) that their businesses underwent.
Where To Look
The first step to figuring out where to find a solution for your business problem is to find an industry with a similar problem. For example, many industries borrowed from the UBER and AirBnB success. Everything from tool rentals to parking space sharing became a common thing.
Then find out how these other industries are solving that problem and apply it to your own. Another great example is the GE MRI machine that used to scare sick children that used a playground for its inspiration. Check out how fun it looks now.
Often times it takes an actual new pair of eyes and ears from another industry to accomplish this. You and your team might resist even going outside of your industry for expertise but remember, most innovation comes from solving the same problem in different industries.
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