Borrow great concepts and adapt them to where you work, says Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos

Where do the best ideas come from? Do you ever get the sense that there isn’t anything new, just old ideas recycled, polished and improved upon?

Every now and then, something truly unique and revolutionary comes along that is new and different – think Nokia, the electric car and the first Hoover.

But most things are just a good idea rehashed and added to. It’s a bit of a downer to think that only a few people in each generation are likely to come up with something truly unique and different. The rest of us are just imitators and copycats.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Copying, improving, refining and innovating has meant that Hoovers have developed into Dysons and 
self-guided vacuums, that electric cars have become amazing super cars such as Teslas, and that the first Nokia has evolved into the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy that we have today.

So we can’t all invent or create something completely new and extraordinary, but we can improve on what is there – and this is where the more ordinary among us should focus. But how do we do this? My view is that one of the greatest aids to this type of ‘inno-velopment’ is by adding to our experiences and looking outside of our immediate backyard.

Broader view

A cruise line keeping an eye on other cruise lines, or a hotel company just looking at other hotel companies, won’t lead to the type of innovation we see happening in these, and other, sectors.

We need access to as many sources as possible to broaden our thinking, jog our creative juices and allow us to improve on existing products and concepts. We should read everything we can, speak 
to lots of people who do different things, visit other businesses and see how they do things, look at amazing innovations and wonder how they might apply in 
our industry.

We need to move to a mindset that questions things, that asks “why not?”. Our approach must be “can do” rather than “cannot”.

Range of insights

I’m fortunate that I get to engage and interact with a lot of people across lots of businesses, both in my day job capacity but also through Clia, the Institute of Customer Service, my own small business, my cycling friends and through introductions via social media.

This gives me lots of insight into other industries and businesses, and why they are successful, as well as what makes them similar or different.

It enables me to borrow great ideas and consider whether I could adapt them to where I work. I get to meet and learn from some amazing people who have unique – or almost unique – status.

It also allows me to recognise my own limitations and that I’m probably an ‘inno-veloper’ and good at building on existing great ideas, rather than an innovator who creates something truly unique and groundbreaking.

Hey ho, I’ve missed the boat on inventing the package holiday and dynamic packaging. But I might, at least, be able to learn from and improve on what others do, and to use great ideas created elsewhere, with the aim of creating the best holiday experience possible.