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The Innovator's Toolkit: 50+ Techniques for Predictable and Sustainable Organic Growth, 2nd Edition by Neil DeCarlo, Philip Samuel, David Silverstein

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Technique 25

Forced Association

Hone in on solutions from other industries.

 

Forced association encourages you to escape the current paradigm—whether that is today's product, your own industry, or your own problem-solving approach—and discover solutions from seemingly unrelated fields.

Some of the most significant advancements in history have come as a result of learning from and applying solutions from other industries. For example, in the mid-1400s, the last critical component of the mass printing press—the part that transfers the image from the metal type to the paper—was adapted from the winemaking industry's wine press.

To expand your perspective, you can immerse yourself in a variety of industries, disciplines, hobbies, and cultures (such as volunteering in a hospital or working abroad in a new culture). You can build a team with a collective makeup that gives you a broader reach across multiple industries and viewpoints. Or, you can use forced association to proactively push yourself and your team outside of your paradigm to find an instance where your problem has been solved before.

The success of open innovation communities such as NineSigma, InnoCentive, and AlliedMindStorm.com demonstrate the value of going outside your industry to find the missing link you need to solve your own innovation problem.

Steps

Scenario: A dairy farm in Eastvale, California, is experiencing increased demand for their number two product: fertilizer (courtesy of the farm's dairy cows). The ...

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