What is cross-fertilization? Despite the name, it’s not a shady cloning technique used in a secret plan to revive dinosaurs. Although to be fair, the term did originate from biology.
Technically speaking, cross-fertilization is recombining genetic material from two parents in order to maintain a greater range of variability for natural selection to act upon. This increases a species’ capacity to adapt to environmental change and its chances of survival… certainly a valuable concept from a business standpoint, with more and more competitive environments around.
As such, cross-fertilization applied to business is all about importing and mixing ideas from different places, markets or people to produce better products and services. Importing a technology from another industry, or hiring people from a different company are examples of this.
With that in mind, let’s look at three ways cross-fertilization leads to innovation:
Be open and see with new eyes
In the corporate world, innovation is all about exploring new possibilities outside of everyday business practices. However there’s more to it: if we take the example of the Silicon Valley, one of the most innovative ecosystems worldwide, we find a culture of people who are totally open with one another, but at the same time, also completely receptive to new ideas. These traits promote the circulation of ideas.
Stepping outside your comfort zone is a good way to rewire your brain, open your eyes and view things differently. Ultimately, thanks to cross-fertilization, one is able to break free of the cognitive fixedness that leads to running in circles within our own closed world. To give an example, at Amadeus we harness this approach through our worldwide connections to academics, research labs, start-up ecosystems (including VCs and accelerators) and other corporations, including those outside our traditional industry.
Be faster and concrete
The key to creativity, according to Steve Jobs, is “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then bring those things into what you are doing.” This links back to cross-fertilization and taking what other industries do well to adapt to your business. By integrating tried and tested practices or adapting systems already developed by another industry, the groundwork has already been laid and implementation is faster: Time-to-market is suddenly reduced, increasing the possibility for competitive advantage.
Cross-fertilization is also valuable for players outside one’s industry: in our case, travel can definitely be a new playground for external products or technologies. It is a win-win situation: a new market for the external company and faster innovation for Amadeus. If we go one step further in this context of go-to-market, cross-fertilization can even lead to co-creation. This is the perfect approach for concrete innovation since both parties have strong business expectations in this exploration.
Be user-centric and create relevant market value
Beyond simply transferring technologies or insights from one industry to another, cross-fertilization is also about connecting industries, especially around usage and experience. One example of this is TravelCast, an innovation we unveiled at this year’s SXSW, where we cross-fertilized the Media and Travel industries by allowing users to not only be inspired to travel somewhere through media, but to be able to live this experience by booking the related trip right then and there.
These are only three ways cross-fertilization can be a powerful platform for innovation, especially when targeting adjacent or even disruptive innovation. What are your thoughts on cross-fertilization in business? Have you seen other examples of how this concept can lead to innovation? Let us know by commenting below or sending a tweet @amadeusinnov.