Industries change so fast now that it’s not enough to stay ahead of current competitors. Businesses have to anticipate and head off future competition as well, a concept sometimes called “disrupting yourself.” Chief Executive magazine wrote about this recently, and reached out to Nottingham Spirk and a client-partner for input.

Matco Tools had a problem. The toolboxes that it sold to auto mechanics across North America—the flagship of its business—were becoming dated as manufacturers loaded more and more technology into their automobiles. Mechanics needed more sophisticated tools like vehicle diagnostic kits and recharging stations, and their needs varied from model to model

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So, starting about two years ago, Matco, a $450 million subsidiary of Danaher, based in Stow, Ohio, launched an innovation project with an outside business-innovation firm, Cleveland-based Nottingham Spirk, to disrupt its biggest line of business. Matco assigned some of its best and brightest to an innovation team that also included representatives from Nottingham Spirk.

Tim Gilmore, President, Matco Tools

Tim Gilmore, President, Matco Tools

The result was a new product line, tool boxes that integrate everything from iPads to wrenches for maximum efficiency. Matco President Tim Gilmore said that working with Nottingham Spirk was the key: “Sometimes you can have a view of what your products or markets are, but having outside eyes come in, people who challenge what we think, is really is a critical thing.”

 

Bill Nottingham made the case for strategic collaboration, even for large enterprises with in-house resources:

“A partnership mentality makes business sense,” he says. “The market keeps changing and, if you as a CEO have to keep creating new teams and paying for them, that gets expensive.” Why not, he asks, bring in specialized brain power, a kind of a SWAT team, and use them on a case-by-case basis? His firm says it has helped companies create new products that have reached a total of $50 billion in sales.

One of those products, the Edison Award-winning Troy-Bilt FLEX, was also developed with an industry-leading partner that wanted to innovate without sidelining existing lines.

The entire Chief Executive article, which also notes Nottingham Spirk’s role in the development of the Bassinest, is available here.

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