Healthcare Innovation: Find Inspiration Across Industries

Start Connecting Things

By hiring the CEO of Burberry, Angela Ahrendts, Apple is looking to the fashion industry for inspiration. Ahrendts will bring her digital and social savvy to the position of senior vice president of retail.

Some speculate this may be because of Apple’s interest in wearable technology – an industry that is projected to grow to $19 billion by 2018 according to Juniper research. As quoted in my previous piece on Quantified Self, “The biggest hurdle to wearables hitting the mainstream is not technology, but fashion.”

Is Apple CEO Tim Cook thinking like Steve Jobs?

For Steve Jobs, creativity is connecting things. Jobs believes that a broad set of experiences expands our understanding of the human experience. A broader understanding leads to breakthroughs that others may have missed. Broadening your experience also means seeking inspiration from other industries. At various times, Jobs has found inspiration in a phone book, Zen meditation, visiting India, the fine details of a Mercedes-Benz, a food processor at Macy’s, or The Four Seasons hotel chain. Jobs doesn’t “steal” ideas as much as he uses ideas from other industries to inspire his own creativity. – Mitchell York

Innovative leaders look outside of their comfort zone to other industries for inspiration, and to cross-pollinate ideas. What steps can you start incorporating to find daily inspiration for healthcare?

5 Tips for Innovation Inspiration Across Industries

1. Make more connections outside your field.

Twitter is a great platform to connect with people over ideas and interests –or even just for listening. Who is in your feed? Do you only follow specialists – experts in your field of healthcare, medicine or technology? For innovation, add some “generalists” to your mix.


  • Have deep interests in many fields,
  • Are always curious,
  • Have an openness to new ideas, and
  • Actively cross-pollinate – making connections throughout their diverse network across “weak ties.”

“Adopt a best practice from within your industry and you may be accused of industrial espionage.  Borrow from another industry, and you are considered a creative genius.” – Bob Roitblat

2. Attend conferences that you normally would not attend.

I interviewed Ángel González, a healthcare innovator and the founder of Ideagoras, a leading healthcare social media agency based in Spain with global clients like GE Healthcare. Ángel is always searching for new ideas, and will modestly tell you that hosting the annual International Ideagoras-BBVA Conference is not his core business. But now in its fifth year, the conference brings together a diverse group of speakers and an audience of innovative thinkers in healthcare.

However, Ángel says he makes it a ritual to travel to conferences outside of healthcare, and in different parts of the world, for inspiration. He met one of his speakers for the Ideagoras 2013 Conference, Erich Joachimsthaler of Vivaldi Partners, at the World Innovation Forum in New York. Erich’s keynote at Ideagoras in Madrid on November 14, 2013, will be on “Trust as the New Social Currency.”

Last month, Ángel traveled to San Francisco for the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit, and met with Jeremiah Owyang (more about Jeremiah in Part 2). In this video, Ángel shares why it is important to look for inspiration from other industries.

3. Travel more often.

Ángel tells me how inspired he was to visit San Francisco and the Bay Area while attending the digital conference, and contrasts his experience to New York, a city he also loves. Innovators like to experience new cultures, and appreciate differences.

Although Ángel attracts people from all over the world to his intimate conference in Madrid, his enthusiasm peaks describing the global virtual audience who also connect with his conference via livestreaming and Twitter. Ángel was a pioneer in streaming conferences and connecting people all over the world via the #ideagoras hashtag already back in 2009.

4. Learn from other cultures, even if you can’t travel.

I was surprised to learn that 80 percent of Americans do not have a passport! There is a huge opportunity to learn from across the globe in today’s socially connected world.

Do you reach out to other parts of the world through social media? Do you participate in healthcare Twitter chats and conferences like #ideagoras in other countries?

The popular #HCSMANZ (Healthcare Social Media Australia and New Zealand) attracts a global audience at 7 am ET every Sunday morning, and you don’t have to worry about another language. Doctors connect with other doctors around the world through Twitter Chats for innovation in their specialties like #UROJC, Internal Urology Journal Club on Twitter.

Locally, make a point of going to a restaurant that serves a cuisine you have never experienced. Do a little research in advance and learn about the customs, popular dishes, and special ingredients. Observe how things are done differently. Practice some popular phrases in the native language, and say hello to the owner.

People open up to people who take the time to learn even a little bit of their language!

Try this on Twitter, too. I will often say “hello” or “thank you” to someone in their native language, even if they tweet in English. It creates a special rapport.

Use Google Translate to read articles tweeted by international friends. Retweet the English translation to your network, and credit your friend with a “HT” or hat tip.

5. Venture outside your comfort zone.

Ángel says that companies in the healthcare industry put up barriers to adopting the social web, and it has nothing to do with regulatory issues, but a fear of being out of one’s comfort zone, “By learning things that are being done in other industries, like Burberry in the fashion world, like General Motors in automotive, you can learn many, many things that can be incredible. They are really inspiring. I have come back here with many ideas that, at the end of the day, will provide value to my clients.”

Serendipity: The Benefit of Connecting Things

Angela Ahrendts already connected with Apple back in 2010.  In an interview with Wall Street Journal Magazine, she said she did not look for inspiration from other fashion luxury retailers, but instead looked to Apple.

“If I look to any company as a model, it’s Apple,” she said. “They’re a brilliant design company working to create a lifestyle, and that’s the way I see us.” – WSJ Magazine

In 2010, Steve Jobs may have already “connected things” with Ahrendts. That’s the interesting part – you never know how or when the dots will connect – it could be next week, next year, or years from now.

If you don’t connect with people outside of your field, you risk staying in the echo chamber of why something can’t be done – instead of looking at all the possibilities from others who are doing it.

Look for 5 more tips on how healthcare can innovate by looking to other industries for inspiration in Part 2 from Angela Dunn.

The following two tabs change content below.


HealthIsCool is a writer and trends analyst. She writes about health innovation, wearable tech, the Internet of Things (IoT), new health technologies, and future trends. Her latest trends research includes: The Rise of Wearable Technology and Google's Ambitions in Healthcare. Follow on Twitter at @HealthIsCool.

Latest posts by HealthIsCool (see all)

, , , , , ,