Cross-Pollination in Business: Why it’s the Secret to Innovation

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In business, cross-pollination is not when somebody from sales dates somebody from marketing. 

Cross-pollination is the process of exposing employees to new ways of thinking by sharing knowledge.

It’s about combining the intellectual capital of individuals with different ways of thinking to reach innovative solutions. 

Just think, when Elton John duetted with 2Pac, it was a real collision of differing styles! Ghetto Gospel is forever a classic that defied genres and appealed to various generations, all thanks to cross-pollination! 

Struggling to come to a fix within your department? Don’t get cross; cross-pollinate! 

What is Cross-Pollination?

In nature, cross-pollination is when one plant pollinates a plant of another variety. The genetic material of both plants merge and the seeds that are produced include characteristics from both flowers. 

Cross-pollination in business is much the same. It’s when different departments or individuals are thrown into the same blend. The end result can be an exciting mixture of fresh ideas, a shift in thought patterns and can also build a lasting bond between departments.   

Examples of Cross-Pollination in Business

Whilst we’re focussing on in-house cross-pollination, whole brands have also collided to create new and innovative opportunities:

1. Red Bull and GoPro:

On paper, a carbonated energy drinks company and a portable camera business don’t share much in common. But Red Bull and GoPro formed a collaboration in 2016 that has gone from strength to strength. 

Together, they have a multi-year partnership that oversees content creation, global distribution, cross-promotion and product innovation. Part of the agreement means that Red Bull get a cut in GoPro profits, and GoPro have exclusivity rights to point-of-view footage at Red Bull events. It’s the best collab since Nelly and Kelly! 

2. Topshop and Stranger Things:

In 2017, Topshop turned their flagship store on Oxford Circus into set pieces from Stranger Things for 11 days. You could walk around Byers Castle, Hawkins Lab and the Byers’ living room, amongst many other stranger things…

Naturally, Topshop successfully sold Stranger Things apparel, including sweatshirts, T-Shirts, hoodies, and more. This is a perfect example of a hybrid that’s a win-win for everyone. 

3. Nike and Apple:

What do these megabrands have in common? They both have a wealth of die-hard customers who are dedicated loyalists of their respective brands. Since the early noughties, these two commercial giants have collaborated on innovative products that both sets of customers can enjoy. Nike and Apple have created everything from fitness trackers to fitness apps, to trainers and much more, all related to exercise and keeping healthy.     

Five Benefits of Cross-Pollination in your Company

‘Power comes not from knowledge kept, but from knowledge shared.’ (Bill Gates). 

By saying this, Bill endorses cross-pollination within companies (and he’s worth 107 billion US dollars!). 

Here are just some of the benefits of cross-pollination within your team:

1. It Saves Money

External consultants will likely charge by the hour. They may charge expenses, and they could even demand the split of intellectual property. So why go to all this trouble when you could have an in-house solution ready to go? 

2. It’s Educational

Intellectual capital has now become an unofficial currency. It’s the communal know-how of your staff. This wealth of experience can’t be bought with cash-money. (Actually, it probably can, but that’s not the point!)

3. It Solves Problems

Like an M.C Escher sketch, there are two ways of looking at everything, especially in business. When you introduce team-members from separate departments into the fold, you’ll get a fresh perspective when tackling an obstacle. This type of cross-pollination is a fairly new concept, also known as job rotation. 

As well as problem solving, it gives employees a refreshing break from strenuous job duties, something the finance team will be thankful for!

4. It Leads to Unexpected Innovation

Building on the last point, new minds can also lead to unlikely innovations and solutions. The clashing of opinions and the mixing of thought processes can both reframe old ideas and create new ones. Some companies are opening what’s known as a collision space. This is a place for employees to discuss these ideas, something they wouldn’t usually have the time to share. 

5. It Helps with Network Growth/Team Bonding

A by-product of cross-pollination in the workplace is communication that otherwise wouldn’t occur. 75% of employees rate teamwork as very important. It’s also working together as a group that the best learning outcomes are achieved. Install cross-pollination within your company and it’ll create some stimulating conversation. (The tech department may even begin to talk!)

Three Ways to Encourage Cross-Pollination in your Business

1. Incorporate Social Learning

The 70/20/10 Model tells us that 70% of learning comes from on-the-job experience, 20% comes from social interactions and 10% comes from formal training. One way you hone that 20% is by implementing an LMS with inbuilt social elements. 

For example, our Academy LMS provides engaging social features such as clubs. A club is a great way to harness social learning and to record spontaneous brainstorming, something that quite often conjures up the best ideas. 

You could create a club specifically to gain new perspectives on tricky obstacles, or for new innovative ideas. Clubs are a great way to get everyone brainstorming together. 

We also provide an experts area, whereby learners can propose questions to appointed experts in their fields. This is a fantastic way to gain a new perspective from genuine knowledge masters! 

2. Reward Ideas

Sometimes your learners will need an outside incentive to collaborate. This is what we call extrinsic motivation. 

If you gamify your learning journey with XP (experience points) and virtual badges, your learners will suddenly become wildly competitive! 50% of employees benefit from competition in the workplace, but remember, it’s only a game! 

So, how can you incite a reward scheme for cross-pollinators? If somebody has made the effort to mingle in another department in order to create, innovate and problem-solve, then you could reward them with 100XP. Before long, everyone will be contributing in order to come top of the leaderboard! 

3. Make it Mobile Friendly

46% of Americans admitted to checking their phones before getting out of bed in the morning! We now see our mobiles as extensions of our very selves. So the thought of cross-pollinating without a mobile-friendly learning system is simply unfathomable. 

Sometimes cross-pollination will require some rapid brainstorming in order to overcome a hurdle. What’s the best way to reach people nowadays? It’s via mobile, of course! Ensure your learning solution is mobile-friendly so that your employees will have easy access 24/7. 

Our powerful mobile-learning solution, The Knowledge Arcade, houses a thriving learning community by mixing social learning, gamification and learning games. Never has cross-pollination been so engaging! 

Final Word

Want a team who are always buzzing off of new ideas, inventing brilliance at the drop of a hat, and who are proud leaders in your industry? Then cross-pollination is essential. It breathes fresh ideas into stale departments, it flips hurdles upside and views them from different angles, and it also allows your team to learn from one another. 

Want to know more about intellectual capital? Download our awesome whitepaper: ‘Your Guide to Intellectual Capital.’

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