Marc Heleven is an expert in cross-industry innovation. Together with his colleague Ramon Vullings he wrote a book about cross-industry innovation, Not Invented Here, which came out recently. He is an innovation web searcher, who, as the name suggests, searches the web looking for innovations. Specifically innovations from certain sectors which can inspire companies in other sectors. As Marc states: “Not Invented Here is all about how you can search cross-industry innovation: if it is not invented here, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been invented yet.”
“The post-office didn’t invent the e-mail, and the candle-maker didn’t invent the lightbulb: great innovations come from different sectors.”
Seeking for innovations
“From the first day I had access to Internet,” Marc tells me, “I was fascinated by its potential as a source of inspiration for innovation. It’s where I’ve been finding inspiration and innovations for the 430 sessions of web searching since I started, fifteen years ago.” Marc searches for innovation five days a week, so he sees a lot of innovations pass by.
Book ‘Not invented here’
“About seven years ago, I started writing about Innovation with my colleague Ramon Vullings, which was a very pleasant collaboration. We came up with the idea for the book about two years ago, we wanted to write a practical approach for companies who wanted to innovate across industries.” The most difficult thing for them was selecting examples of cross-industry innovations. “That’s what Syneratio could’ve helped me with: finding the right partners and examples for cross-industry innovations.”
Before I met Marc, I never heard of an ideaDJ, nor did I have any idea what an ideaDJ did. Marc was so kind to provide me with the answer: “As an ideaDJ, you are a sort of sidekick of a spokesperson at events. You provide creative visuals which match with what the spokesperson is saying,” Marc explains to me. “You don’t know what they are going to say so it’s all improvisation. And it’s at a very high speed, since you can’t place an image on the big screen five seconds after the other person said something. You have one and a half second to find an image that fits the subject to make sure it’s still relevant.” Marc and his colleague Ramon, who’s also an ideaDJ, have had several great performances like this.
Trends across industries
According to Marc, there are no clearly defined sectors anymore. “You see that several companies that started out as a strongly defined business are now looking more and more to other sectors for inspiration and innovation in products. Google,” he states as an example, “started as a search engine but since Google Maps it’s also a route planner and with YouTube, it might be an education innovator, since course material is also featured on that platform.”
“Businesses who don’t look beyond their own sector for inspiration or innovation are doomed to fail.”
“Companies are starting to realize they have to disrupt their own company before another organisation does it to them. The traditional sectors are starting to disrupt. Also,” Marc sums up, “when you look at the most innovating sectors, you see those are already cross-industry sectors: high tech companies, financial tech companies, and digital health for example. Another thing is Open Innovation, which is gaining more importance. You see businesses collaborating, co-creating, to learn from each other. The same thing is possible on Syneratio,” Marc mentions. “Syneratio provides a combination of tools and sectors to make collaborations possible, which makes it a great example of cross-industry innovation.”
“What cross-industry innovation really is about, is using inspiration and trends from different sectors to improve your own company. It’s necessary for your company to survive: businesses who don’t look beyond their own sector to innovate are doomed to fail,” Marc finishes.