Cross-Pollinating Technologies Is the Way of the Future
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
Unless you’ve just relocated from Mars, you’ve probably heard of bitcoin. Not only is it the golden child of the cryptocurrency world, but it’s also a hot commodity for investors. Still, you might not know that cryptocurrency technology is finding a home outside the walls and wallets of high finance.
Clever entrepreneurs have piggybacked on what makes cryptocurrency tick -- essentially, the distributed ledger used to verify a transaction and the parties involved -- to create non-traditional advertising based on token exchanges. They’re being innovative, yes. They’re also following the tried-and-true cross-pollination process that happens with technologies that take hold.
We’ve seen it societally again and again: Technological waves grow and mature, and smart individuals look for ways to incorporate the tech into their own solutions.
At high points, technology’s core elements become magnets to people working in other sectors looking for collaboration and cross-disciplinary possibilities. For instance, what started as raw information technology has become the use of AI to map the human brain get new insights into the inner workings of the mind. Certainly, this isn’t what was intended by the pioneering IT programmers, but it is a natural result of creativity mingled with old-fashioned trial and error.
Therein lies a call to action for all business founders to open their minds to opportunities far beyond their sector silos.
Say hello to the three phases of tech progress.
Evolution in tech isn’t just inevitable; it’s also predictable. First comes curiosity and experimentation, as well as research and development. Using IT as a poster child, consider mainframe computers and those dinosaur computers of the 1970s. Their role was to carve a niche for IT and define its purpose.
The second wave of tech evolution is expansion, and the 1980s and 1990s saw this with the burgeoning of the personal computer industry. The final wave of tech evolution is transformation and emergence across discipline barriers. Smartphones and the internet wouldn’t be possible without their IT forebearers, but they certainly operate differently than traditional IT companies.
Each step in any tech solution’s evolution breaks down barriers. By the last phase, entrepreneurs may gain advantages by exploring ways the technology could be used in their own fields.
What benefits are business leaders noting when they broaden their horizons and bring influential tech into their own marketplaces? Collaboration is a top result. Yet bringing intradepartmental employees together to have new discussions at the meeting table is just the beginning. Many companies are discovering that would-be competitors can be partners as they explore ways to incorporate tech principles into their operations, products or services.
Several interesting use cases have arisen showcasing this open approach to technology. One recent example stands out: the idea of utilizing eye measurements to design websites. This trend allows companies to scientifically map out user flow based on technological concepts. In other words, it’s a new way to use existing IT for evolutionary purposes.
Related: 3 Places to Find New Tech Talent
For entrepreneurs who are eager to ramp up their businesses’ innovation through similar fruitful tech cross-pollination, there are a few practices to keep in mind:
1. Analyze tech from different industries.
Look at how other companies in different industries are using the technology to see how it fits into your business. For example, how do media companies work with big data to understand how customers interact with their products and services?
Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google (or FAANG, as they’re collectively called) are experts at collecting information about their users to improve the user experience, and they’re transforming the way media companies use data and reach customers. This has created difficulties for other broadcasting and publishing companies, as they now need to start taking a data-first approach to stay competitive.
2. Step outside the business bubble
Branching out into art, literature and social sciences can provide new insights into technology’s vast uses. Rather than wallow in a narrow perspective, spend time outside the world of business and technology.
That’s what’s happening at the CERN particle accelerator in Switzerland. Artists travel there to participate in the three-month Collide@CERN program to learn how space-age tech can have implications in their own universes. While it’s not necessary to visit Europe to get the same benefits, it's important to regularly take educational, mind-expanding field trips to out-of-sector places.
3. Give biases the brush-off
Stepping outside your comfort zone can help you eliminate biases and adapt to this new reality. Don’t get stuck doing the same old thing. It’s difficult to embrace any concepts if you’re mired in a tradition that’s not particularly helpful.
This isn’t a new concept. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, often used science as a way to improve his art, studying skeletons to better depict the human physique in his paintings. Art and science work together in a variety of ways -- consider how engineering and design work together to build breathtaking sculptures or how musicians use math to compose beautiful scores. It might be challenging at first to step outside the norm and try something new, but it can lead to something truly original.
Businesses don’t need to work in silos and only look at their industry peers. In fact, when technologies from different industries cross-pollinate and work together, it can lead to discoveries that can change the world.