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The Innovation Series: Part Four Look Beyond Your Own Industry
Mike Wynne's Global Profit Builder
The Innovation Series: Part Four
Look Beyond Your Own Industry
May 2007
In this issue
-- The greatest threat to your industry
-- Innovation in the In-Flight Food Service industry
-- Efficiency in Surgical Procedures
-- Swiss Army Knife Tire-Changing Tool?
-- Robots in the Construction Industry?
-- Retro -Trolley Power Source for Cars?
-- Socrates Modernizing Teaching?

The greatest threat to your industry
Guess where the greatest threat to your industry is going to come from

Very likely, it will from a company in a different industry. Market revolutions rarely start with insiders. It takes fresh eyes with a different perspective to spot the gaps in established systems and structures.

  • Coach manufacturers and railroad companies did not start the automotive industry.

  • The Wright brothers ran a bicycle shop before they started building airplanes.

  • FedEx and Starbucks did not emerge from the classic patterns of their respective industries.

  • During World War Two, Henry Kaiser, who had never built a ship in his life, revolutionized the shipbuilding industry by introducing the concept of pre-assembled components used in other industries. He was able to put ships together in less than 21 days! Kaiser came from the construction industry.

If you want to launch the next big thing in your industry, look beyond it!

Innovation in the In-Flight Food Service industry
  • Start with industries that complement yours. After 9/11, the airline industry eliminated meals on domestic flights; instead, they offered snacks. Now, they don't offer anything for free other than soft drinks. Instead of snacks, they do offer to sell you pre-packaged meals, mostly sandwiches. Is there an opportunity here?

  • Well, if you are thinking of one, you may be too late. Some airlines are already selling packaged meals produced by a company named Go-Picnic. According to early reports, they are actually good, and may even dispel the memory of what we used to disparagingly call "Airline Food."

  • So, what is going to happen to the In-Flight Food Service companies? Some may go out of business, others may attempt to follow Go-Picnic's example. Goddard Enterprises Limited, a Barbados-based company whose catering division provides in-flight food service to airlines in 22 countries, has opened a number of airport fast-food outlets called Grab N Go. Their products are designed specifically to be taken aboard flights that don't serve food.

  • Successful innovation does not require that you abandon your core strengths. Quite the contrary, the secret is to find new ways to apply them. Looking beyond your industry can help you find those new applications. Goddard's strength lies in its ability to provide good food where and when it is needed. When British Airways scheduled its supersonic Concorde to land regularly at Barbados, they chose Goddard Catering to provide the very fancy meals for those flights. To give you an idea of just how fancy those meals were, all the 120 trays for each Concorde flight had to be decorated with orchids of the same color.

Efficiency in Surgical Procedures
  • What could surgical instrument suppliers learn from the maintenance pits at the Indy 500 race? Through special design, constant training, and developing speedier procedures, pit crews are able to change all four tires on a car in 12 seconds! Not that surgery should become a speed contest, but selecting the right instruments for each operation, sterilizing and protecting them against contamination are time-consuming processes.

  • Hospital supplier Cardinal Health took a look at these processes and developed pre-sterilized, pre- packaged instrument trays for not only each type of surgical procedure, but even according to each surgeon's preferences. Given the national shortage of nurses, can you imagine how much time and effort this saved?

Swiss Army Knife Tire-Changing Tool?
  • In turn, the processes and tools designed for the pit crews at Indianapolis might serve as inspiration to those companies that produce the tools we keep in our cars. They might also learn from the manufacturers of the Swiss Army Knife to offer an equivalent one-device-does-it-all product for tire changing.

Robots in the Construction Industry?
  • The automotive industry makes wide use of production line robots that assemble and paint automobiles. Many other manufacturing industries are introducing growing numbers of robots. Yet, one of the largest industries in the US, the construction industry, still uses mostly hand tools - albeit some of them powered -- to build houses. Just imagine what that industry could do if construction could be standardized to allow for automation.

Retro -Trolley Power Source for Cars?
  • There are lessons that can be learned from the past, too. Trolley cars used to hook up to overhead electric cables to power their engines. The system was very economical compared to the cost of the internal combustion motors that today power cars, buses, and trucks. Auto companies are now producing electric hybrids. What if a similar electric cable power source could be made available in cities and on highways to power electric cars? The savings would be nothing short of awesome.

Socrates Modernizing Teaching?
  • Most college professors still lecture; many are still quite boring and ineffective. Yet 2500 years ago, Socrates taught people by asking questions that forced them to think and discover new concepts. Following that line of thought, what questions should companies be asking themselves about their business to develop new concepts, products, services, processes, and policies?

    Taking it even further, what questions should you be asking
    yourself about your business?

Need help answering this question? Go to and check the articles under Resources. Need more help than an article can supply? Contact Michael Wynne at International Management Consulting Associates, 630 420 2605, or e-mail . Our slogan is "The business of our firm is the future of our clients." Let us help you ensure that your business will have a bright and exciting future.

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