Breakthroughs emerge from within as much as from outside an industry. Mostly, inside the sector, the incumbent products market share forces Kodak's of the world to hide the digital camera they could have developed, or the Xerox's of the world to not create what could have transformed the company. The list goes on.
Yet, this lesson is not lost on the leaders in the oil and gas sector. It was delightful to read Mr. Gerald Schotman comments when he was asked recently, "What is an example of a freaky idea that became successful?" Mr. Schotman's replied:
"In the offshore business, there was a guy who went with his kids and bought one of these small plastic reptiles toys. If you put them in a bottle, they expand. Someone realized that if you want to seal off water zones in an offshore well, that is exactly the material you need. You put it next to the well, when the oil starts to turn to waters, then that material swells and closes off that water and the water will not interfere. It is a nice way of shutting off water zones. The thought required to develop that material and do tests – that was a nice freaky thing which is now a reality."
Read the complete conversation here.
Procter & Gamble has made this art into science a while back, see an article "Innovating from the outside in" here explaining some of the thought process and in market results. The article states:
"We don't corner the market on good ideas and every good idea doesn't have to be ours," said Vice President of Business Development, Jeff Weedman. "The goal is to identify and collaborate with innovators who can help us consistently improve existing brands and create new products that delight the world's consumers."
See Procter & Gamble's Open Innovation program Connect + Develop here.