Want more innovation inside your organization? I think the secret is to start searching more OUTSIDE. Because no matter how big or successful your company is, there are always more ideas outside than in. For that matter, with 193 sovereign nations in the world, there are also more ideas outside your COUNTRY than in. (Sorry to disappoint nationalists and isolationists everywhere.)
So let others around you read all the same trade magazines, attend all the same industry conferences and talk among themselves about the same variations on a theme. If you have the heart of a Cross-Pollinator, look far afield for ideas that you can translate and adapt for use in your business. That’s how metal pie tins thrown by a college student became the classic Frisbee flying disc. It’s also how an Inuit technique for preserving fish in the Canadian wilderness became the catalyst for Birdseye‘s frozen food empire. And how punched cards for creating patterns in silk Jacquard looms became the 80-column Hollerith cards that drove computers for decades. (Younger members of the team may not have even SEEN a Hollerith card, but all of them will have heard of the resulting company: IBM.)
While those three examples of profiting from cross-pollination are all historical ones, the value of the Cross-Pollinator continues today. In the last few years, for example, Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley has urged his entire staff to get at least 50% of their ideas from the outside. And their lineup of successful products may herald the beginning of the end for the not-invented-here syndrome in the business world, since billion-dollar platform products like Swiffer and Spinbrush reflect the work of great Cross-Pollinators at P&G.