Fresh Eyes See Opportunities for Innovation

Entrepreneur, creativity, innovation
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Sometimes, an outside perspective can shed light on new ways to run a business. Fresh eyes may even see opportunities for innovation in an industry.

Outsider Changes Live Show Lighting

Gordon Droitcour, CEO and co-founder of Cour Design, was trained as an audio engineer. Gordon tells about how he got into live show lighting in his interview in my new book, Entrepreneurial Voices:

At this time, I was getting a little bit worn out by audio and touring. This is where I kind of had a major, very clear “aha” moment.  I said, I know I do audio, but I’m around these lighting people and know enough about it to be dangerous.  I realized that there is a way to use the audio software almost all bands already use to trigger lighting and video cues. This can eliminate some of these expensive people. I think that can work.

Most bands have a piece of software that plays their backing tracks.  It’s like having an extra band member on stage to play the instrumentation that you don’t have a person for.  This might be a beat, a vocalist line, or a violin line. You put that into software called Ableton, which is a software that plays back the tracks.  But everyone uses that for audio only. I realized that this software gave you the ability to lay out MIDI triggers, which are primarily made for audio.  These MIDI triggers sent “go” messages to different pieces of software and hardware to make them react automatically. I also found out that the lighting software also accepts these triggers. Instead of it triggering musical notes, you can make it trigger a lighting console and say, “Kick, snare, flash, flash, flash” the lights.  And so, we just connected those two things, and it removed such a highly skilled person out front triggering the lighting.   Because at the end of the day, they’re just doing it to the music anyway. It is automated this way and it gets locked in.  Honestly, some of this was used already at the arena level, but no one wanted to focus on a solution for these smaller bands.

Bringing Change from the Outside is Not Easy

Although they met some resistance to change, this rag-tag group of audio engineers broke into lighting and design for live shows with their fresh perspective and helped change how business was done. Gino Cattani and Simone Ferriani, who have been conducting studies on outsider-driven innovation for the past decade, state that often, the most challenging part of bringing innovation from the outside is selling the new idea to insiders. Disruption rocks the boat, and the truth is that most people prefer stability to change, even if it offers a clear improvement.

However, Cattani and Ferriani believe that persistence pays off:

“The very traits that make outsiders so disadvantaged within established occupational structures and professional categories are often precisely those required for the pursuit of exceptional entrepreneurial achievements in art, science, and business.”

Not All the Best Ideas Come From the Outside

Ben Jones, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Kellogg School of Management, argues that not all good ideas come from outsiders and that insiders may, in fact, have a distinct advantage. He says:

“If you’re familiar with the ins and outs of an industry, having worked in it, and you have a strong professional network, your odds of success are greater.”

HR consultant Dr. Greg Willard has found that even if an innovation comes from the outside, it is often up to inside experts to bring the new idea to life.

Innovation Partners

My own experience suggests that most innovation requires that insiders and outsiders working together is what brings change and disruption.  For example, companies like ours that brought significant innovation to healthcare in the early days of managed care, were most successful when we built a team that included open-minded industry insiders and outsiders with a fresh pair of eyes.