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Do’s and don’ts of Cross-Industry Innovation

The event on Cross-Industry Innovation is one of our events that we organised in cooperation with Antwerp Management School. Here academics and executive leaders shed light on innovation. These events are set up in a way that knowledge can be shared and lessons can be learned from each other.

Lessons to learn from other sectors

Why Cross-Industry Innovation?

As time progresses and businesses become more and more competitive and complex, the need to gain or keep ownership over the market, to grow and be ready for the future is inevitable. Companies have to be proactive creators to meet future challenges and the demand for continual change. Such creation can vary from new business models, new ways to meet your stakeholder’s needs, increasing the customer experience, rethinking your processes to be competitive in the market, value creation and so on. To achieve such high goals innovation becomes crucial, a fact that is confirmed by numerous studies that link leading companies to their strong innovation program.

As shown in the graph, there are three level of innovation: incremental, transformational & radical innovation. Here radical innovations are aspired, because the more radical the innovation, the higher the profit margins. A driver of continual change is the fact that as time progresses a radical innovation will become a best practice or even a commodity over time.But such radical innovations are hard to realise and entail high risks. One possibility to facilitate the realisation and reduce the risk is cross-industry innovation – here approaches of one industry are being transferred to another or analogies are applied – or open innovation – where problems and solutions from different industries are brought together. On top of reducing the risk involved in innovations, a second advantage is the increase in efficiency of research and development as resources can be limited and resources from the public and private sector can be combined.

Drivers and barriers of innovation

Most of the drivers of innovation were already mentioned above. The main driver is the goal to increase a company’s competitiveness to stay ahead or to take over the market. The second driver is the needs of the different stakeholders, which will affect the competitiveness of a business. Thirdly environmental factors, such as regulations & technology, will affect the need to innovate. As we look to the different barriers of innovation we see that they are all on an internal level. A lack of focus will make it difficult to be creative in the framework. Structures need to be in place, because there need to be a couple of rules and processes. And last but not least the culture should allow the dream and should be open to innovation.

The 4 C’s you need to take into account within cross-industry innovation

  • Concept – the ability to conceptualize: Within this step it is important to question the question at hand itself. This because it makes it possible to look at the question on a higher abstraction level, which is important to take people out of their everyday business context which is dominated by best practises.
  • Combine – the ability to combine: In the second ‘C’ it is important to take a look at business within other sectors to find innovative solutions to your challenges. This process can be facilitated by information-brokers, by the use of synonyms or by working together with other sectors or your competition.
  • Create – the ability to make it fit: When you have found a solution to your challenge they will not match perfectly to your situation. Here it is important to be creative to adapt it so that it is tailor-made to yours.
  • Commercialise – the ability to implement: Although businesses can have good innovative ideas it is important to take the necessary steps so that they are implemented, carried and in a next step commercialised to get the desired and necessary return on investment.

Lessons learned from the industry

  1. During the event we saw two different best practises of the step ‘combine’:FISCH: Facilitates the setup of an ecosystem, based on a synergy in the value chain or competences and which leverages public and private resources, which promotes the innovation’s process of valorisation by bridging the innovation valley of death.
  2. Bayer MaterialScience: Cooperates with other companies to shift away from innovation on the product level and to realise innovations that meet societal needs, are in line with their strategy and are applicable on their value chain. Only then such projects will be sustainable, profitable and accepted.

What can be learned from them?

  1. Select your partners to combine forces to tackle the challenge at hand – which can be competitors, partners in a value chain or totally unrelated to each other, academics. Such a setup will allow bringing ideas from outside-in.
  2. Build trust, which is the glue to build a good synergy to help each other in facing a problem.
  3. Make a formal agreement between the partners, which states what the deliverables, added value, background, resources and knowhow are of each partner and who can use which deliverable after the project is finished. On such an agreement you can always fall back and it will make the project real and feasible.
  4. Make sure a steering committee and an operational team are in place that can facilitate, support and bring the companies together. A steering comity will realise the desired leadership, will demand commitment from one another, will make sure that the fire is in the paper and that companies will stay in the lead to bring the project to the desired result.
  5. When you want to innovate you will always have the option to work alone or to cooperate with other parties. When making this decision it is important to weigh the profitability you’ll make and to what level you will meet the customer needs against the option ‘working alone’ or ‘cooperate’, a tough balancing act.

7 steps to successfully cross –industry innovate/create like an artist

  1. Pose a really specific question.
  2. Generate ideas and list them all. Keep on brainstorming beyond the point where crazy ideas by using brainstorming techniques to get the maximum out of it. Here it is really important that you defer your judgement, go for quantity, make connections and seek novelty, because idea generation and idea judgement are totally different processes. Separating this you will prevent yourself from the creadox, which is the danger of falling back into old habits or ideas, namely idea killers, cfr. Picture 2: 29 idea killers.
  3. You need to constructively judge ideas, go for quality, focus and stay in line and encourage novelty. A good method to go through the ideas is placing them in the COCD box.
  4. The COCD box, cfr. Picture 3: the COCD box, is a tool that lists the ideas by feasibility and originality. Blue ideas need to be implemented straight away. Red ideas are the radical innovative ideas which we are all looking for and the yellow ideas are GOLD and adaptable to a red idea.
  5.  You can’t merely copy paste the whole thing. You need to adapt it to make it fit. COPY-ADAPT-PASTE.
  6.  Implement.
  7. Don’t be afraid; take the risk.
  8. Don’t judge if it doesn’t lead to the result you tried to obtain, it’s just a ‘nearling’!

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