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We all value those times when we can step away from our desk, from the computer or phone and step outside. Some do this because of a necessity of toping up the nicotine levels, others just simply to step away and freshen up.

Another reason to get out of the office, is when it comes to thinking differently within business Steve Blank has a rallying cry of “get out of the building” as part of the Customer Development Manifesto, to turn the hypothesis into real customer needs through gathering hard customer data.product_managers_must_get_out_of_the_building.jpg

By applying a set of development principles where combining rapid iteration, making constant pivots, becomes central to a business model’s customer discovery and validation as facts, hard valuable ones, as these are often only found where customers live and you must go there repeatedly to achieve those minimal viable products that validate your assumptions.

How often do we come up against a problem or challenge that can’t be resolved by sitting at our desk, we have to go and look elsewhere? The trouble is we tend to go to the familiar places; those tried and tested norms, the expected answers that have been well developed as our industry solutions and established as the features our customers expect. We immerse ourselves in our category as we know it as the natural place to start.

Yet we are missing a huge amount if we simply stop there and apply the common solution, we miss the real chance to challenge and deliver solutions that can become game-changers or can shift customer perspectives and needs in uniquely different ways.

Going cross-industry

Have you noticed nothing seems to stand alone today; it is now more connected, more dependent on others. More and more companies are breaking out of their industry box, forming radically different business models, delivering products, services and processes all seen outside their industry and found they can be applied within theirs.

Industry borders are blurring, there are increasingly smaller, agile and highly disruptive companies working to change the existing into the new preferred. Established players that continue to choose the familiar are at increasing risk of missing out.

The whole concept of cross-industry is to seek out new ideas

Cross-industry investigations develop our abilities of asking different questions, combining elements that might not be expected without a more open mind, finding new innovation patterns and then testing concepts through new customer validation techniques such as Steve Blank’s customer development process. Cross-industry discovery is growing in its importance to innovating differently.

Take a look at these examples at http://www.crossindustryinnovation.com/15-examples/ showing some clever ways to jump-start your thinking by drawing analogies and transferring approaches between contexts, beyond the borders of your own industry, sector, area or domain.

We need to grow our ‘art’ of questioning far more today. Questioning is becoming a strategic asset, just take a look at these Thirty What-If Questions to rethink your future.

The art within this questioning is constantly asking the “why, what if and how” so as you can begin to discover the applicable innovation pattern that can be transferred from another industry into yours for a radically different product, service or process.

There is a really excellent book “Not Invented Here- Cross Industry Innovation” written by Ramon Vulling and Marc Heleven that came out in May 2015, and to support this, they have a dedicated website where you can find a terrific reference site that they have compiled to help you jump start your cross-industry innovation efforts, to enhance your products/services, processes, business models, strategy & culture. Enjoy the ride!

Their 101 Cross Industry Super-Sites is superb to delve into and be inspired and amazed at all the approaches of cross-industry approaches moving from one industry to another.

The ability to work abstractly

Can we separate our established thinking thought from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances and suspend judgement and seek out novel, different connections? It is the power of seeing the distinct differences in innovation possibility that can translate into that radically different product, service or process, finding the applicable innovation pattern that can be applied to your industry. Developing the art of always posing the question of “what this could become?” requires a new lens of perceived thought.

It is applying a conceptual or a more theoretical approach, having an open mind to see patterns and connections not normally applied within your industry but can become radically different to explore.

Then in turning these into a hypothesis that moves this idea into the customer validation process and then you can unleash your lean management process of building prototypes, experiments and iteration’s to take this “out of the building” for that empirical build and customer testing built on constant validation and testing, blending radically different ideas with customer needs.

Often this is the toughest work as you have to strive to overcome the mentality of “not invented here, so it won’t work for us”. Turning “yes but”….into “yes and” is hard. Changing established perceptions is extremely hard but potentially very rewarding. It can give you real competitive advantage by translating what you learnt in applying analogies to solutions that solve your customer problems.

Begin your journey of simply just stepping outside

The crucial need when you begin this journey of “just stepping outside” is knowing what the innovation question or challenge you are trying to solve is really about. Do not mistake this with simply looking to extend your existing product, this is asking about innovation that can be radically different:

  • What are the main issues your customers would love to be resolved?
  • Can you list the existing best practice, clarify its desired effects but does it meet the real needs?
  • What inspirations can you glean from another industry to arrive at a “next practice” that gets closer to the real needs?

So as you search across industry you are framing the questions into “how do we”: adapt, enrich, customize, take one element and apply this, expand, learn, experiment, modify, fuse, blend or play with that alters our thinking. It is like knowledge building blocks (think Lego) that connect together.

There are so many examples on this cross industry site to get the ‘juices flowing’. One I had not come across was in the use of the Ten Types of Innovation, explained recently in the post Using the Ten Types of Innovation Framework by building up a terrific tactics overview produced here as a wallchart that lends itself to cross-industry questioning and potential application framing.

Finally we have to allow time to explore Micro, Macro and Mega Trends

There are so many trends to tap into and explore by having this questioning hat on. If you can lay your hands onto a trends map that could inspire you so much the better. Just reflect on how the digital culture, globalisation, individualism, rising aspirations (and deepening discontent), our access to information, urbanization, health and wellness, climate change and corporate leadership are all triggering points for change. As we are seeking ideas from these trends they can come from many cross-industry examples on how they are tapping into these and this can lead to cross-collaboration opportunities or the ability to reach out, across industry and explore thoughts that can be applied back in your business.

See how HYPE Trends can radically improve your innovation and idea program


At a time when companies need more radical and game-changing innovation, so as to be able to meet the challenges facing them of chasing growth, fending off increased competition and having industry borders increasingly merge, we need to find ways to jump-start our innovation efforts in radically different ways.

By drawing analogies and transferring novel approaches gained in searching across different industries and then by placing these into the specific context of your customer needs we can begin to develop new products, services and processes differently and this can be achieved by making those different connections and constantly asking questions to frame and explore other industry solutions into ones that have real potential in yours.

It is working towards a “next practice” by breaking existing patterns and norms that can radically alter the thinking and change the game. By stepping out into the unknown and explore in places you usually would not have been investigating to solve your problems and part of this application comes from giving increasing attention to cross-industry innovation practices. Many can be applied within your solutions to offer game changers or radically different approaches to delivering on those often initially hidden customer needs

Your “just stepping outside” in your thinking and exploring may be the beginning of a real game-changer and might take a little more of your time being away from your desk and it might be highly valued that you did take the time in new products, services and processes.

Case Study: See how Liberty Global constructed its scalable and sustainable  innovation program

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Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft researches and works across innovation, looking to develop novel innovation solutions and frameworks where appropriate. He provides possible answers to many issues associated with innov