We tend to immortalize the companies who invent (or perfect) the technologies that impact our daily lives the most. I say car, you think Ford and General Motors. I say computer, you think Microsoft and Apple. Those who want to be immortalized, then, must feel an immense pressure to deliver something new and innovative, something life-changing.

The problem, of course, is that the simple desire for recognition doesn’t often inspire a product that’s worthy of it. Those technologies that have changed the way we live did so because the teams behind them were passionate about pursuing a singular vision. And in fact, many such teams relied on previous innovations to make theirs a reality (think Ford and the assembly line, or Apple and the GUI).

Which brings me to the heart of my point here: Innovation doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it depends on work that’s already been done. If you’re trying to grow your business, sometimes your best bet is to think of new ways to use other companies’ great ideas.

Here are 3 organizations that are finding success by doing exactly that.

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Instead of creating disruptive technologies, 3M is developing products that complement them.

Despite a growing number of controversies, the age of the autonomous vehicle appears to be dawning. Companies like Uber and Tesla have made it clear that they want to be major players in the space, and are currently devoting significant resources to the development of their particular solutions. So are more traditional automakers. Whoever succeeds in creating the first widely available self-driving car will very likely hit revenue numbers that the rest of us dream about.

Meanwhile, many companies — companies who have nothing to do with cars or the technologies that can make them drive themselves — will look on and wish they could play. Here’s the thing, though: They can play.

Take 3M, for instance. According to Inc., “3M's scientists are developing new materials for road signs so sensors on automated vehicles can track signals as they speed by, essentially enabling both humans and machines to navigate roadways together in a reliable way by ‘reading’ the same signs.”

This is a perfect example of recognizing that new, in-demand technologies don’t only create a market for themselves — they create whole new ecosystems of opportunity.

Despite dominating online retail, Amazon isn’t limiting itself to the web.

You don’t need me to tell you about Amazon. At this point, the online retailer is monolithic — the go-to destination for most anything you might want to buy.

What you might not know, however, is that Amazon is expanding its reach into brick and mortar stores. Earlier this year, the company opened Amazon Go, a “checkout-less convenience store in Seattle.” Hearing this, my first questions were: Why bother? Wasn’t Amazon.com an attempt to compete with traditional shopping?

The answer, unsurprisingly, revolves around an innovative technology: The ability to track what a shopper has added to his or her cart and then charge whatever card they’ve linked to a store-specific account. Amazon decided to test the waters of a new industry because they had reason to believe they could improve upon the standard experience.

In this case, it isn’t the technology’s particular use case that’s unexpected — it’s the company that decided to use it. Amazon’s boldness here offers a good lesson, though: Just because a company has done something one way since the beginning doesn’t mean there won’t come a time when it would be profitable to go the other way. When a particular technology presents a good opportunity, don’t let stubborness prevent you from taking it.

Basketball may be more than 100 years old, but the Philadelphia 76ers are using brand new technology to make it better.

Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers used the first pick in the NBA draft on Markelle Fultz, a superstar point guard who played college ball for the Washington Huskies. But then, sometime between ending his amateur career and beginning his professional one, Fultz apparently forgot how to shoot the basketball. Bizarre? Definitely. Unfortunate? For the 76ers, no question.

For many teams, the solution to this problem would have been some good old-fashioned coaching. For the 76ers, however, the solution was… new-fashioned coaching?

To improve Fultz’ shooting mechanics, the organization decided to turn to a virtual reality training program. According to CBS Sports, the 76ers “wanted [Fultz] to be able to visualize the mechanics he'll use in a game, to remember how easy it once was for him to rise up with the ball and shoot from anywhere on the court, and to be able to do so without the glare of the cameras or other people around him.”

If this experiment works, expect other NBA teams to stock up on VR goggles.

These 3 examples represent a range of ways to think outside the box when it comes to new and innovative technologies, but they barely scratch the surface of what’s possible. If you’re interested in talking more about how technology — especially the latest in CRM — could help grow your business in creative ways, drop us a line. We’d love to talk.

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Strategy, Tech

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