When ‘Stealing’ Can Spell Success


It’s not really stealing if you put your own twist on it.

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Who would have thought that science could take a hint from Hollywood? A few years back, the folk at 3M developed a breakthrough concept for preventing infections related to surgery based on the know-how of a theatrical makeup artist. If you look around – cross-industry innovation is rife in modern culture. McDonald’s drive thrus are based on the same principles as the Formula 1 pit stop. James Dyson’s vacuum cleaner was inspired by an industrial sawmill and, while their origins remain shrouded in mystery, sushi trains look suspiciously like airport baggage carousels. If you’ve hit a creative roadblock or are hunting down a solution for your business, take a good hard look outside of your sector – it can really pay creative dividends. Here are five of our favourite examples of where some inter-industry mingling could spell success.

What wellness can learn from gaming
The prospect of catching Pikachu has a great deal of us (21 million in the US alone) off the couch and out and about, which is more than any fitness app can claim. “Pokémon GO has proved that people are more than happy to exercise, and to engage with others in the real world, with the right motivation,” observed Enrico Coiera, director of Macquarie University’s Centre for Health Informatics. “While healthcare researchers slowly come to grips with ideas like using gamification and social media to defeat obesity, the game industry may well have jumped the queue and done it.” Why does it work? It feeds our craving for social connection, satisfies our competitive natures and, unlike any old chain of gym, it’s available anywhere in the world and it’s free. Wellness would do… well, to take note.

What fashion can learn from beauty
These industries might be cut from a similar cloth, but not being able to ‘try before you buy’ is where online fashion stores fall flat. Beauty, on the other hand, has been innovative in tackling this digital dilemma. L’Oreal’s Makeup Genius app has a real-time camera – acting as a mirror – that allows you to virtually try on any of their products or suggested looks, while Clinique and Maybelline have both used augmented reality app Blippar to similar effect. Beauty is also a big on YouTube, with bloggers in this field taking an all-together more down-to-earth, engaging approach through make-up tutorials – and with beauty vlogger Zoella reaching close to 12 million subscribers, perhaps it’s time that fashion bloggers spent a little less time filtering their Instagram snaps and got in front of a video camera.

What for-profits can learn from non-profits
The late and great management consultant Peter F Drucker wrote in the Harvard Business Review that, “As a rule, non-profits are more money-conscious than business enterprises are. They talk and worry about money much of the time because it is so hard to raise and because they always have so much less of it than they need. But non-profits do not base their strategy on money, nor do they make it the centre of their plans, as so many corporate executives do.” Instead, non-profits focus their energy and resources on getting their mission and strategy crystal clear. As Richard Branson more recently said, “Remember: some of the world’s biggest and best brands (including Virgin!) started with just a small amount of money, but an abundance of passion and drive.”

What retail can learn from hospitality
It’s a little-known fact that almost half of guests staying in luxury hotels shift the furniture in their rooms around a bit. At top-notch establishments, the staff take a picture of the room before it’s made up so the stayer’s preferred arrangement can be in place for next time, while new technologies allow them to track and cater to their lodgers’ sleeping, eating, drinking and television-viewing habits. E-commerce, too, has the technology to recall our preferences, but auto-filling someone’s credit card details doesn’t exactly say, “Welcome home”. Sephora is leading the way here with their Beauty Inside loyalty program – where customers enter specific details (such as skin tone) into a profile and are, in turn, serviced with relevant offers – and it’s time other retailers got familiar.

What tech can learn from art
Steve Jobs once said, “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” The man famously didn’t listen to his customers – his point here being that it’s tricky to predict what’ll be a hit, so why bother? Now consider a painter. They might take the odd commission, but largely they’ll do the work first, put it out there in the world and wait for the response (good or bad) before heading back to the drawing board. Rather than relying on the market and trends, artists go with their intuition and rely on their skills. Tech upstarts should do the same by building something they’re passionate about – and listening to their gut.


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