Featuring commentary from Natasha Kennedy- SVP, Strategy Research and Frank Francese- SVP, Expert Services
You rely on your internal experts to help your business run smoothly. But have you considered how experts — especially those outside of your company and industry — can help jumpstart innovation?
Customers and business partners can be a fruitful source of new ideas, but forward-thinking companies are also enlisting the help of experts to help spur ideation. Why use experts beyond those you already have on staff? Outside experts can offer the technical knowledge needed to uncover a promising new idea or provide a new take on an old problem.
Experts and the Drawing Board
For example, Crayola saw the market for a marker that would write beautifully on paper but would be useless when children tried to practice their artistry on walls and furniture. To enhance the technological expertise needed to implement the idea, Crayola turned to ORC to assemble a team of experts in everything from dye technologies to paper and wallpaper to furniture coatings and surface materials.
Using their pooled knowledge, Crayola and the experts were able to identify a combination of color dyes and paper coatings that would work together so that Junior could draw on a very specific type of paper but nowhere else. A second forum of experts helped make refinements to the new markers when tests revealed that they still left marks on certain acrylic surfaces.
With this input, Crayola brought the first-ever stain-free marker to market, and the company has since unveiled an entire line of mess-free paints, markers, coloring books, and finger paints.
Experts are also helpful in offering fresh perspectives not limited or shaped by a company’s existing strengths, internal politics, or bureaucracy.
When a manufacturer in the plumbing industry was looking to grow in new ways, it turned to water experts to help identify promising areas to explore. The company worked with a nanotechnologist, a NASA scientist responsible for water issues, and the head of water management in a major American city. By taking this related but different angle on its business, the company was able to identify a number of growth possibilities slightly outside its traditional focus.
Succeeding With This Approach
To drive innovation, finding the right experts for your project is key. Though every case is different, this generally involves locating people who have knowledge and experience that is tangentially related to a company’s core business.
But it’s not just about pinpointing the best people. To be an effective tool for innovation, experts need to be given the opportunity to communicate and ideate easily. For some companies, this means in-person meetings or expert forums that include a number of people. When a budget is limited, online communities made up of experts or a series of phone calls can also work well.
To learn more about fueling your innovation process with new ideas, read our report on “Strategic Innovation- Riding the Wave of Disruption”.