The Business Innovation Technique Of Blending

Entrepreneurs are natural innovators, but even the most forward-thinking people sometimes need a little nudge to help open their minds to new possibilities for growth.

One of the best ways to think outside of the box is to start asking “what if” questions. Here’s a “what if” question I’ve been kicking around lately: What if we took two disparate businesses and blended them to make something new? I’m not talking about merging or partnering with another company; I’m talking about blending business methodologies from two (or more) industries to create a new business, or dramatically improve an existing business.

A classic example of this is Commerce Bank. Founded by Vernon Hill in 1973, Commerce Bank blended two industries: fast-food restaurants and banking. The owner of a fast-food restaurant franchise, Vernon Hill’s bright idea was to bring the convenience and perks of fast food to banking.

For example, fast-food restaurants are open everyday, and they start early and close late; Hill implemented extended hours at Commerce Bank and kept the doors open seven days a week. No other bank had done this before.

Hill blended other systems from his fast-food franchise when he launched his blended business. He installed a “Penny Arcade” coin counting machine in his lobby, which had the same effect as video games in family restaurants. Kids could count money and win a prize, and the adults loved it too.

One of my favorite examples of Hill’s blending genius is when you use the drive thru window at Commerce Bank you get a treat for your dog, just like the toy in a kid’s meal. Is it any wonder people call it “McBank?” By blending two industries, Hill created the fastest growing bank ever.

Commerce Bank grew from one to more than 400 locations and the franchise sold for $8.5 billion in 2007. See what a little game of “what if” can spark?

What if you blended your business with hallmarks from another industry? Start thinking WAY outside of the box, looking at winning concepts from industries that may seem to have nothing to do with your business. (Of course you do have something in common with business in ALL industries: customers.) You never know— you just might make billions.

Consider yourself nudged.


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