Something Borrowed: Cross-Industry Innovation

From wearable technology such as Google Glass and the Nike Fitband, all the way to 3D printers, the recent buzz about new technological advancements has been deafening. There is no doubt that the rapid and wide range of technological advances across all industries has had profound economic, political, and even philosophical effects on the human race. The market research industry has not escaped these effects, with many new methods and technology solutions inspired and influenced by external factors.

If we take a trip down memory lane, there is a clear pattern of the market research industry evolving to meet the technological demands of the day (albeit more slowly than the rest of the world). This is evidenced through the implementation of things like online surveys, with the proliferation of Internet access, all the way to how tablets and digital payment systems in emerging markets are advancing real-time data collection in today’s market research space.

According to a scholarly journal article, “Creative imitation: exploring the case of cross-industry innovation” (2010, Blackwell Publishing), the power of advancements outside the “value chain” (internal or direct vendors) has long been underestimated when it comes to innovation. The authors maintain that cross-industry influence can be thanked for the stimulation of ideas, stretching knowledge, and enhancing opportunities for advancement. This concept started garnering attention from scholars and business experts within the last decade only, even though the phenomenon has been occurring all along.

Cedric Valtier, managing director of a French management consulting and technology services company, wrote in a 2013 article in the online journal Outlook that “studies suggest that future growth opportunities will increasingly emerge outside a company’s traditional business. And each of these opportunities will require disruptive new approaches and collaborative models.”

It is imperative that, as an industry, we take note, pulling pages from outside industries to advance our own tools and techniques. And this goes far beyond simply “copy and pasting” methods. In fact, very few things trigger the proverbial “light bulb” moment and, voilà!, a new research method is born. Most innovations are the result of continual effort and attention, where each day contributes to a final product. Borrowing from another industry can move this process along more quickly, beginning with studying trends from other fields and applying them to research practices.

But how do we go about identifying opportunities in the first place? Some simple and practical approaches can help companies and individuals not only integrate, but also identify new techniques and technology:

  • Read! Check out Fast Company or TechCrunch. Explore case studies of cross-industry technological influences within market research and beyond. You can do a simple Google search for a quick review, or start exploring the practices of other companies or business sectors that you admire or see as innovative.
  • Take a close look at risk-taking and its role in innovation. It can be scary to break free from the status quo and take a risk, especially when it comes to disrupting our jobs and livelihoods. But taking a risk maximises the chances of successful change.
  • While outside advancements are a big part of what pushes us to innovate, we can also achieve this goal at least partially by looking to experts in our own industry. Align and partner with other companies that you admire and this can inspire best-in-class innovations through integration or collaboration.
  • Get your clients involved. Carefully communicate the benefits of new technology and tools to clients – they are the best advocates for new methods and approaches.

Market research will stay relevant today and in the future through future thinking and collaboration. There is no doubt that as technology moves forward at a break-neck pace, it can advise our industry. So borrow and disrupt; you are the future of research!

Authored by Kristin Luck, Decipher

First published in Asia Research Magazine Q2, 2014Ideas