Don't overlook the value of cross-vertical experience
More and more professional hockey organizations are hiring ex-figure skaters to coaching roles, according to Sportsnet. Teams have caught on to the value of ideas and techniques from beyond their traditional domain. Or as the article puts it, they're embracing a "previously untapped well of knowledge."
It turns out, when these professional athletes practice figure skating, and are coached by former figure skaters, they become better, more powerful skaters. And in the competitive arena, athletes are willing to look to unlikely sources for an edge.
The phenomenon offers an interesting parallel to business that should not be put on ice: There is value in the ideas and techniques that come from outside the boundaries of a company's industry, vertical or comfort zone.
But even if you can carve out the time to consider new ways of thinking, it can seem nearly impossible to figure out where to look for inspiration. "The cross-vertical experience of a partner who serves a diverse set of clients and industries can be a great point of supply for transformative ideas," says Pete Milovcich, vice-president of business development at TELUS International.
Industries and companies change by necessity. A trusted partner with broad, earned experience across a number of industries can be invaluable throughout the process of evolution. Think, for example, of what Facebook was when it first started in contrast to what Meta is today: The very definition of what constitutes a social network is changing before our eyes, and so too are the demands placed on a company that operates within that space.
Leveraging cross-vertical experience may not teach you a triple axle, but it should help you land on your feet in times of change. Keep reading for a closer look at cross-vertical experience and why it matters.
The value of cross-vertical experience
To borrow a popular idea from the telecommunications industry — which has taken on a new life in the tech industry — the value of a network can be said to grow exponentially with the number of people in it. It's referred to as Metcalfe's Law, and it's a term that has been commonly used in the context of social networks and the value they gain from an increase in users, the connections between them and their interactions.
"Metcalfe's Law is a useful way to think about cross-vertical experience too," explains Milovcich. "When a company partners with TELUS International, for example, in a sense they become part of a dynamic network of client companies from around the world. And by doing so, they usher in the possibility for connection with successful brands and innovative ideas outside of their typical scope."
The key is to create a forum for open communication between companies interested in this type of idea-sharing. "What we're trying to do is create a space for clients and prospects to have conversations with each other," says Milovcich.
Countering the counterpoint
The value of cross-vertical thinking can't be understated, which is a reality made clear by a number of poignant examples. But first, let's address the elephant in the room.
Running counter to the idea of cross-vertical knowledge, there is a commonly held belief that success comes from narrowing focus and doing one singular thing well. In fact, at the time of writing, a quick Google search for the query "do one thing really well" yields over 11.1 billion results.
Applied to the idea of partnership, this belief could lead a company to rule out an outsourcing partner that serves numerous industries in favor of one that only works with clients in their particular niche.
In this case, such a view is overly reductive. Excelling in your craft can dovetail with a pursuit of evolution. American coffee and baked goods chain Dunkin' serves as a great example. The popular brand hasn't started serving spaghetti or sushi — for the most part they have stayed true to their bread and butter, or donuts and icing if you will. But that doesn't mean they haven't looked beyond the confines of their niche to evolve. Their website has a 'Shop' page to enable the purchase of branded bags and pods of coffee and creamers, and a 'Delivery' page, no doubt taking inspiration from eCommerce companies and tech's many prominent food delivery brands.
Milovcich brings the conversation back to partnership: "When I speak with clients and prospects today, I'm noticing a trend. They're seeing things change around them, in their industries and in the wider landscape, and they're trying to understand how they can adapt," before adding, "They're looking for access to experience that differs from their own; a partner who has gone through or observed the learning curves that come from being the first movers with new ideas."
Examples of cross-vertical thinking
The possibilities inherent to cross-vertical thinking abound. That said, there are a number of promising applications that have the potential to positively disrupt the status quo. The following are just a few examples.
Sharing content moderation techniques between games and social networks
On an episode of How I Built This — a popular podcast featuring innovators and their stories — host Guy Raz interviewed David Baszucki, co-founder and CEO of Roblox. The conversation meanders through Roblox's ongoing evolution and makes for a fascinating listen. But there's a golden moment that is worth mentioning in particular.
Toward the end, Raz invites his young son, who happens to be a big fan of Roblox, to ask Baszucki a question directly. "I just wanted to ask — well not really ask, just say — I think that in the games there should be a monitor because there are so many people who say really weird stuff in the game."
Baszucki speaks to the platform's content moderation efforts, explaining that Roblox tries to create "a safe and civil environment," and that their monitoring systems are becoming better, more automated and the focus of continuous improvement.
Roblox may be in the games industry, but it's an apt example indicative of wider trends like the growing need for sophisticated content moderation operations, and the blurring of industry boundaries. First, because Roblox's own content moderation operations seek to maintain a welcoming environment in what has become a massive online community — offering useful lessons for social media companies trying to do the same. Second, because Roblox is experiencing a transformation of its own, embracing and playing an active role in the formation of the metaverse, and in the process changing the lines of what constitutes a company in the games, tech and eCommerce industries.
Best practices from eCommerce applied to games
Much like the Dunkin' example referenced earlier, direct-to-consumer online shops are becoming seemingly ubiquitous across the web. The best practices developed and continuously iterated upon from eCommerce are being applied widely; but it's the games industry that is reaching new heights with lessons learned from eCommerce.
Milovcich shares his experience: "We see so many companies in the wider entertainment industry introducing, and trying to optimize, their own web stores. Games studios aren't just selling games; they're selling merchandise, subscription-based services, exclusive events and in-game items and perks."
When you consider that in-game consumer spending already exceeds game purchases, and is expected to surpass $74.4 billion by 2025, it's reasonable to expect that eCommerce and games will become increasingly entwined as time goes on. Likewise, expectations for increasingly robust trust and safety measures can be anticipated as studios work to protect themselves and their players from fraud.
Blockchain principles from fintech applied to healthcare
Cryptocurrency markets may have encountered challenges as of late, but it's important to recognize the promise of the underlying blockchain technology. Put succinctly by Ogilvy Consulting in their recent report titled Brands, Blockchains & The Creation Of Value, "As the internet allows us to digitally transfer information, so the blockchain allows us to digitally transfer items of worth."
The countless blockchain advancements and applications that come from the financial services and fintech industries could be the key to inspiring innovation in healthcare. The Ogilvy Consulting report hones in on blockchain tech's "unique functionality as a distributed database," explaining, "At the most personal level, patient records can be uploaded, updated and immutably stored on private blockchains. At a routine doctor's visit, for example, blood pressure readings, weight, EKG results could be recorded as 'transactions' that the physician validates and timestamps onto the blockchain."
The promise is great for brands across the healthcare ecosystem. In the same report, the President & CEO of American life insurance company Humana is quoted, saying: "With (blockchain) transparency and automation, greater efficiencies will lead to lower administration costs, faster claims and less money wasted."
In addition to blockchain technology, it is important to note that in healthcare, as in financial services, trust is essential. Just as financial brands must work diligently to earn and maintain the trust of their customers, so too must healthcare companies looking to improve the patient experience. Similarities between the two industries in terms of trust, and regulation, create a real opportunity for cross-vertical innovation.
Take steps toward innovation
Celebrated advertising executive David Ogilvy once said, "You can do homework from now until doomsday, but you will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas."
That's certainly true if you're limiting your search to your industry. But big ideas are brought forward all the time, and perhaps it's less about invention, and more about knowing where they can be found and applying them in new ways.
Reach out to our team of experts and take steps toward innovation.