Cross Pollination: seeding an idea for Future Innovation
Cross pollination literally means the transfer of pollen from one flower to another. When this happens, a new type of plant is being created, carrying different attributes, and allowing for diversity in the species.
Transcending the concept of cross pollination from the world of botany into our lives.. how is cross pollination relevant to today’s work, in particular, the area of innovation?
In Brendan Boyle and John Cassidy’s The Klutz Book of Inventions, there are numerous playful inventions resulting from connecting and combining objects and concepts that on the surface seem unrelated. One such invention is the lawnmowing tricycle that puts child’s play energy to work. It is equipped with a push-style set of lawnmower blades between the wheels so while your kid is having fun outside, they also learn some lawn-care basics. How about an ice cream bowl that melts after use so you don’t have to wash it? This can happen when you mix a dessert plate with an ice-cube tray.
Image thanks to Ideo – The Klutz Book of Inventions
This principle is taken to the next level by applying it across industries to solve some of the more pressing issues. A hospital in the UK improved its patient “hand off” process by borrowing techniques from the Ferrari Pit Crew. They were able to learn from the complex system of a Ferrari F1 team and apply this knowledge to improve a critical handover process. This led to developing new ways of thinking about safety in high risk surgical care. Just like a handover in a race, a pit-stop
requires a team of specialists to co-ordinate and work together under time pressure and to perform complex technical tasks to a high degree of accuracy, all during a rapidly evolving situation. A two-year follow-up study of the new procedures found impressive results as technical errors dropped by 42% and information omissions decreased by nearly 50%
Last but not least, how about cross pollination for high performance teams?
In Dr Mehmet Yildiz’s article, he highlighted that cross-pollination is a powerful methodology in reflecting the importance of diversity to create fusion for generating new inventive ideas. The sharing and interchanging of ideas, thoughts, information, and tacit knowledge can greatly enrich the team’s capabilities. Reciprocity and act of kindness play vital roles in allowing cross pollination to happen.
Cross pollination has shown to be a great tool by taking diverse approaches and ideas from practices or people and using them as inspiration to solve complex problems. Even in today’s (or pre-Covid-19) environment, organisations who have embarked on an activity-based way of working found that when employees of different departments and teams interact and engage in random conversations, such as in the elevator, cafeteria and hallways, shared interests often surface. It is through these unplanned conversations, more often than not, that intriguing new ideas are sparked.
As the pandemic subsides, the way we work, live, learn and connect with each other will be much more intertwined. This provides an excellent opportunity for us to envision future possibilities through cross pollination, only if we are conscious enough to make connection from our own and others’ experiences.
Psychology professor Art Markman explains in his article:
“Openness to Experience is the degree to which a person is willing to consider new ideas and opportunities. Some people enjoy the prospect of doing something new and thinking about new things. Other people prefer to stick with familiar ideas and activities.
As you might expect, high levels of Openness to Experience can sometimes be related to creativity. After all, being creative requires doing something that has not been done before. If you are not willing to do something new, then it’s hard to be creative.”
Stay curious and open, your next big idea might be a result of cross pollination.