Great ideas can come from anywhere. I regularly read books from various scientific disciplines for that very reason. Ideas from one field may light a spark that helps me solve a problem which, on the surface, seems unrelated. Business 2.0 has some excellent examples of this in an article called Product Design, Nature's Way.
"The biologists who know their species and the engineers who solve specific problems are finally talking to each other," says John Pietrzyk, president of Biomimetic Connections, a California-based consulting firm. "When universities fully integrate research teams, they're going to produce wonders."
Clothing manufacturers are already selling stainproof garments with self-cleaning coatings based on the design of the lotus leaf. In a few years, we'll see hearing aids that mimic the auditory mechanism of Ormia ochracea, a small yellow fly. And a company called Novomer is transforming carbon dioxide into a kind of biodegradable plastic using tricks it learned from the way plants turn CO2 into sugar and starch.
There's more if you read the whole thing. Which brings me to the title of this post. September 13-15, the IdeaFestival will be held here in Louisville, KY. Steve Wozniak will be one of the primary speakers, along with many other experts from various fields. They will all give talks about their areas of expertise, with the hope that you can take something away and apply it in your own work. Last year the crowd was filled with scientists and students, but it seems to me that this conference is appropriate for any business person interested in innovation. You never know where your next great idea will come from. Plus, you'll get to have a beer with me, and I'll probably put together a few impromptu lunches and happy hours with some of the participants. So check it out, and consider signing up early. The only thing you have to lose is that status quo style of thinking.