Look Outside of Your Industry to Find Innovation

There’s a way to do it better—find it.
Thomas Edison

Ninety-five percent of your competitors in any city or industry will be manufacturing, selling, and marketing in exactly the same way as you are. That’s why it’s so important to look beyond your locale and your industry for ideas and opportunities.

In the late 1990s I enjoyed tremendous success by looking at what type of business-to-business services were available in the “real” world and then adapting them to the martial arts business. At that time very little information existed on how to run a karate school as a profitable business. I combined a little multilevelmarketing philosophy with the boom in personal development to create a boxed package of sales, marketing, motivational, and training materials specific to martial arts school owners. The boxes were shipped out monthly and automatically billed to customers’ credit cards. This was nothing particularly original, BUT no one had taken the concepts that were working in the rest of the business world and customized them to the martial arts world. Later, when working with the PGA, I did exactly the opposite. I took all the information I had gathered on how to run a martial arts business and applied it to the golf business.

Since almost every business runs on the same basic principles, you will often find new and innovative ideas outside your field that can easily be adapted to your situation. All you have to do is look.

When Southwest Airlines was looking for ways to turn their planes around faster (they are now the fastest in the industry), did they look at all the other airlines, most of which are lame anyway? No, they went to Indianapolis and studied how race car pit crews changed four tires and gassed up a car in under ten seconds.

Step Outside Your Normal Group
By the same token, you will often find that going outside your own organization or circle of friends to consultant colleagues in totally different industries can pay interesting dividends. Ask them to offer suggestions about your particular problem. They won’t be burdened by your emotional attachment to the problem or share the same baggage or mental constraints, real or perceived. You will often see approaches to solving problems that are totally different from those used by people in your particular circle. Sometimes this produces instant results. In other cases, even though it doesn’t produce the exact result you want, it does stimulate a new line of thought that ultimately yields the answers you sought.

You might want to take this a step further by forming a brainstorming or mastermind group. These groups are usually made up of friends, associates, and suppliers from different walks of life who meet casually once a month for the mutual benefit of offering solutions to each other’s specific business challenges.

There is a great idea right now in another industry just waiting to be adopted by yours; what is it?

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