Everyone knows the production strategy Just-in-Time (JIT) for a leaner value added process. This powerful strategy which is nowadays used from companies worldwide was invented from Toyota decades ago. Toyota already had the idea of JIT but they did not know how to implement it. Than they accidently found a way how to implement JIT with the help of American supermarkets. This was what we today call cross industry innovation with the difference that companies like BMW, Coca Cola, Nike or Nespresso now do it aware and systematically with great success .
So have you ever heard of cross industry innovation before? If not than you might will miss one of the most promising ways to get innovations in the 21st century.
Cross industry innovation itself is a product of open innovation. Several years ago there was only closed innovation. Innovation was bounded in the research and development departments of the company .
From time to time market situation changed. Borders between different industries crumbled because of changing customer needs. Company borders and their innovation process became diaphanous. Open innovation was born and with that new innovation methods .
One of them was cross industry innovation. It is namely getting new innovations from already existing solutions from other industries. New is that companies do it aware which is also the reason why process models and methods are not widely popular so far .
Types and implementation of cross industry innovation
You can distinguish between three types. The inside-out-process is used when a company has a solution and seeks for potentials outside the industry in which it is used. More common is the outside-in-process. A company has a problem which they want to be solved. Then they look in other industries for a solution. In the coupled-process the innovation idea is shared in part form the idea to commercialization [5, 6].
To get innovations from the cross industry innovation method you can choose between two different processes. The first process model is from Enkel and Horvath. It has three phases. 1. Abstraction – generalization of the problem statement. 2. Analogy – finding analogies through recombination. 3. Adaption – adaption and implementation of the innovations. This process model is more like a guideline and not really detailed .
The second process was invented from Fraunhofer. It consists out of two main phases which each have five sub steps. Basis is the four dimension model. Results are several alternatives for new innovations. Fraunhofer made a real detailed process that describes each step clearly [8, 9].
Example and outlook
A good example is the iDrive control element from BMW. Before i-Drive was invented drivers were confused from the amount of elements in the car. So BMW decided that they need less control elements and wanted to do it more intuitive.
The cross industry innovation method helped them to find the desired solution in the gaming industry. In the end the joystick technology from Immersion has been adapted. Now it is the key element to navigate the infotainment system in various car series from BMW .
BMW’s iDrive concept is just one out of many examples. Nike for example used cross industry innovation for or the running shoes Shox that were invented in the style of a Formula 1 racing car or Henkel that changed their production process for dishwasher tabs with the help of a candy producer [11, 12].
To become that innovative there are some dos and don’ts companies must consider before they start using cross industry innovation:
- Open your mind and get rid of the “not invented here” syndrome
- Provide multidisciplinary project teams for the collaboration with different industries
- Use a promoter with power who supports cross industry innovation to make sure that all participants have the same will to success
- You should not stay in the old patterns just because it takes much effort to change
- Do not mix outsourcing with getting new innovations from outside
- Cross industry innovation can be used for a collaboration with any company size – so do not only interact with companies in your size
To put it in a nutshell cross industry innovation is currently still developing because it is not a matured method but it will be more and more a core competence for companies which will find its top in the 21st century. It deflects the focus from the source of the innovation idea to the successful realization and utilization. That means this method gives companies the possibility to get many ideas from outside the borders of the companies and decreasing the risk of failure because you look about already existing and successful utilized ideas.