Think you're an expert? It’s time to look outside your industry...

Sector Expertise. It’s a rare and valuable resource.

Traditional consulting has been selling it by the yard (or more accurately, by the chargeable day). Yet as disruptive tech rewires sector after sector, it can be more useful to look outside your own industry to see how you can adapt and survive.

So ?

We meet - and work alongside - a lot of domain experts. Take a spin through Linkedin and you’ll see how individuals market themselves : “over 20 years in insurance” - “More than a decade in digital transformation.” Deep experience in one industry or discipline is prized, valued and promoted. Business still talks about industry “verticals” such as automotive, healthcare and telecoms as if there is little or nothing in common between them.

Going deep into one vertical and moving between the major players in that silo builds up deep expertise, as individuals gain understanding of how similar problems are dealt with.

So What ?

“What got us here, won’t get us there” - this quote from David Lawson, MD of disruptive retailer AO Retail UK struck a chord at this week’s Disruption and Innovation Summit in London.

Developing expertise based on the past will have limited use when the future looks nothing like the past.

This year we’ve seen a surge in clients and prospects wanting to know how other industries deal with disruptive innovation. Here’s a snapshot of the cross-sector pollination of knowledge we’ve enabled.

A healthcare client asked us to look at how travel, retail and telcos are using chatbots to increase frequency and depth of contact across the planet and around the clock.

An industrial gases player brought us on to explain how the paints business is using software to create data models and deepen customer relationships - we illustrated how Carbeat from AkzoNobel is doing just that.

As we move into insurance, we’re looking at how putting healthcare control in the hands of the patient has been transformational in the rapidly digitising health industry. Health and banking disruptors have made services digital, personalised and accessible; this is now spreading to personal insurance. Oscar, the US-based- personalised health insurance player has taken a digital-first, not insurance-first approach, borrowing from health.

Cross-industry innovation can pollinate from seemingly unlinked sectors. What can clinical trials learn from the airline industry? Anitidote, which aims to improve clinical trials, recognised the lack of participants for trials. Using smarts and teams from the travel industry, Kayak VP, Pablo Graiver wanted to save people’s lives rather than money on flights. Pooling knowledge about clinical trial opportunities, partnership advertising from Kelkoo and travel search at Kayak addressed the “needle in a haystack” problem of matching patients to the right trials.

And just today, a contact in a global supplier of ingredients wanted to know how pharma and logistics are using blockchain to tackle both authenticity and adherence. IBM and Maersk’s TradeLens is a clear example of how blockchain tech can deliver clear benefits when applied across a single sector.

So Now What ?

As tech is used to innovate in every sector, we are able to see where models and strategies have been successful.

Transplanting innovation knowledge and expertise across industries can enable you to jump-start out of the box (or out of the vertical) approaches to problems.

As you look to address disruption, here’s just three pointers on how to start understanding the bigger picture:

-stop looking at your competitors responses - they don’t have the answers

-start seeking insight from other industries - CB Insights is great at explaining clearly how tech and models are disrupting every sector

-stop hiring sector experts - the past and present tells you little about how the future will look.

If you want to create and sustain breakthrough strategies, curiosity rather than expertise is your best friend - look outside your “vertical” to see the future.

Feeling inspired? Check out ‘Not Invented Here: Cross-Industry Innovation’ for some more reading on cross industry innovation. Or head over to Upstart for more about how we build breakthrough strategy.