Friday, November 23, 2012

Cross Pollinating: How And Why

The In the Art of Innovation, Tom Kelley discusses how a company can increase cross-pollination in the workplace. The following is a summary of these seven tips:

1.     Subscribe & Surf: have magazine subscriptions either in person or online; By going through other ideas, you can learn and it opens your mind for further innovation ideas.
2.     Play director: Cut your world or environment into different sections and watch it from a different lens. With another perspective it heightens your senses to actions and ideas that you don’t normally pick up on.
3.     Hold an Open House: Showcase what you do; Display a few prototyping ideas and get people networking and talking in a room about what the company does
4.     Inspire advocates: bring in others with different views as the constructive criticism an help resolve barriers or flourish ideas to an entirely different level.
5.     Hire outsiders: outside influence can introduce new ideas and invigorate the company
6.     Change hats: aka Role Playing; Step into someone else’s shoes to understand what they go through or how they will experience a new product or service
7.     Cross train: ensure that each team member can do a set of activities; this creates flexibility and also helps drive an open mind to different processes or activities.

By not cross pollinating in any one of the elements above, it can set up a company and or product for failure. There are three examples that Kelley points as to why cross pollination is critical for survival.

First is DuPont’s Kevlar which was originally set up for new material for radial tires to replace steel. It wasn't until the military and other security forces used the light-weight material to protect against bullets, that it was picked up for use on tires. Second example is Zelco’s “itty bitty book light.” The demand for the product didn’t pick up until a rap artist was seen on MTV wearing it around his neck. The company took a new approach for marketing and what the product could be used for. Third and final example is that of Hush Puppies who was struggling to make sales in the 1950s. It wasn’t until the company that actual manufacturers the shoes, Wolverine Worldwide, stepped in to support a new branding effort for the products. The sales have increased and been stable ever since and Hush Puppies is a trust name for casual and comfortable shoes. 

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