Repurposing as a Platform: Innovations that Create or Disrupt Markets
Very often disruptive technologies and techniques are born due to repurposing and innate excesses that presently exist. In this post we examine a few famous cases of innovative repurposing, the reason an open innovation approach can work so well for this type of creation, and we share a video you might not have yet seen showcasing a blazingly creative use of something finite to us all, time.
Innovating on top of excess just makes sense. Whether it’s re-use of existing buildings, waste re-envisioning, a product that has sat around for nearly 50 years suddenly finding a purpose or creating opportunities that delivers humans back time, the following examples serve as inspirations to corporations and start-ups across the globe. As you look at the below instances, I encourage you to think about your surroundings, your product graveyard, your opportunity to repurpose an existing idea in the hopes of generating new opportunities.
I feel it’s important to say the below examples are not driven by Crowdsourcing or Open Innovation. They simply represent re-use, re-tooling and re-thinking of existing or finite resources and are great innovation stories to share.
TerraCycle upcycles and recycles traditionally non-recyclable waste (including drink pouches, chip bags, tooth brushes and many more) into a large variety of consumer products. Products include plant food packaged with re-used soda bottles, bicycle chains reshaped as picture frames and even fencing that began as pouches of Capri Sun. Visit their website for many more examples of how waste became new product.
Gorilla Glass by Corning
Whether you are reading this blog on a tablet, smart phone, laptop or perhaps even a connected TV, there is a very good possibility that the material composing your screen goes by the name Gorilla Glass. The interesting part of this story is that the material, a super strong, and very scratch resistant glass, formed by a chemical strengthening process known as ion exchange, was invented in a Corning lab in the 1950′s. Originally crafted to sell to car manufacturers for windshields, the product, though superior to alternatives in that era, was too expensive to scale, and so it sat.
With the birth of the smart phone and the murmurs of the tablet on the horizon, Corning reached into their vault and repurposed a 50+ year old invention. In 2008, they reintroduced their “Chemcor” product with an updated branding effort and appropriately catchy new name, Gorilla Glass. Their product is now incorporated into an astounding 425 separate devices, as it is used by over 30 brands. Ironically, if you visit their Gorilla Glass Corning website, in their Emerging Applications section, Corning outlines a new partnership with car-maker Hyundai who is using Gorilla Glass with new in-dash technology helping this tale of innovative repurposing come full circle.
TESCO: Saving Time, Making Money
TESCO entered the South Korean market and grew their grocery chain to #2 in the nation under the re-branded Home Plus moniker. As they studied the culture of South Korea, it was evident saving people time was an economic driver and this was due to the amount of hours the average South Korean worked. How could they drive people to their brand while giving citizens back what they wanted most? Watch the video to see this innovative use of downtime and what it has meant for the TESCO/Home Plus brand.
Why Open Innovation Facilitates Repurposing
When you partner with external communities, whether they have hyper-specific skills or not, you are gaining access to new visions that simply do not exist within the four walls of your company. Granted, the visions may not always be a proper fit, but often there is value in simply seeing a challenge or existing solution in a new light. A team that has only seen a product or technology being used one way, might have a more difficult time re-envisioning that product for another use. Technology biases may set in and opportunities can be missed. Fresh eyes and new ways to apply existing solutions can create new paths to monetization.
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Image Credit: terracycle.net, corninggorillaglass.com
Video Credit: youtube.com