One of my favorite topics is to discuss how breakthroughs are generated by looking for someone who has solved a similar problem in a different space.
Some examples I talk about in my Best Practices Are Stupid books are:
- A company developed a new type of whitening toothpaste by studying the way non-bleach laundry detergent works
- A gas pipeline “sealing” system was developed by studying the way the capillaries in the finger coagulate blood and heal themselves
- An office supply company found a way to get customers to return used toner cartridges by studying Netflix’s DVD service
And there are so many more interesting case studies.
While giving a speech on this recently, a client shared another wonderful example.
The company is in the computer simulation space. They are able to build incredibly realistic models of what might happen in the real world by creating simulations in the virtual world.
When working for a medical device company that made angioplasty equipment, they wanted to create a computer simulation that would predict how the “balloon” would expand.
Where did they turn for an accurate computer model?
In the past, they worked with car manufacturers and built statistical models that simulated the expansion and contraction of airbags. This proved to be a wildly accurate way of predicting how a balloon catheter would operate.
When you are working on your next business challenge, ask yourself:
“Who else has solved a similar problem.”
In doing so, you might significantly accelerate your innovation effort.
Stephen Shapiro is the author of five books including “Best Practices Are Stupid” and “Personality Poker” (both published by Penguin). He is also a popular innovation speaker and business advisor.