I think innovation and the most fruitful ideas happen at "intersection points." There is a sweet spot where two industries with common goals collide and create something truly unique and previously unexplored.
Sometimes it feels like too much of our world exists in a silo. People in one industry are afraid to cross over into another for fear of not being seen as a specialist in their particular area of focus. Or for fear of straying from a perceived identity. Say you’re a scientist, or a pilot, or an artist, or a professional skier. Surely, you can only pick one, right? Because how could you possibly be both and have people understand who “you” are, right? Wrong.
Why is it that we continue to cut ourselves off from all of the possibilities that exist? Do we need such narrowly defined roles?
In my professional life, I’m focused on the somewhat elusive concept of innovation, which to me is the act of continuous learning, evolution and value creation, by fusing together new ideas, audiences and ways of thinking. Often it comes from the places you’d least expect.
My day to day responsibility is to introduce senior management at large corporations to senior management in other corporations. With the objective being that they can learn from one another, across industries, geographies and traditional barriers. My job is also to connect large corporations to startup companies to help each tap into the resources that the other lacks. All of us have strengths in certain areas and shortcomings others. Why not tap into each others' strengths rather than each of us individually recreating a wheel? This is what being part of a global community is all about.
Say one company is focused on the food and beverage industry, and another one is focused on the automotive industry. Both companies are driven by the same motivating factors: how can we make this world a better place? How can we drive profitability while also doing good for the world and adhering to sustainable practices? How can we be more efficient and create change with less impact on the world? How can our products contribute to fostering a circular economy, and generate less waste?
Innovation and innovative ways of thinking can be found everywhere and in every industry. Not just tech, cars, smart homes, solar energy. In every single industry... including the outdoors.
In 31 revolutions around this blipping fantastic place that we call Earth, I’ve been a stem cell research scientist, an investment banker, a sister, a daughter, a biologist, a student, a salesperson...at the same time as I’ve been a runner, an athlete, a mountain climber, a world citizen and a traveler.
"What do you do?" people ask. And I, like you, commonly answer: I work at XX company and do XX all day. But why? Why is it so difficult for me to explain that I can be an innovator and a connector in the business world and an adventurer, a Deuter ambassador and a sustainable travel proponent all at the same time? What if my experiences in one field and with one set of people can make me better and more valuable in another? How do I condense that into an elevator pitch?
For the past three years, I’ve taken an annual trip down to Patagonian Argentina and Chile, a place that has captured my heart and spoken to my soul (cheesy, but true) from the moment my feet touched its enviable and still relatively untrodden trails.
I make a point to visit Ecocamp Patagonia, the world’s first and fully sustainable geodesic dome hotel. This place has brought me the most special experiences, friendships and meals to remember for a lifetime. If ever there was a place that lives and breathes their morals in every fiber of their operation, this place would be it.
What Ecocamp has perfected in a microcosm of Torres Del Paine National Park is everything that our society is striving to obtain on a large scale: sustainability, support for local community, a distraction-free focus on one another (no WiFi is incredible) and a reasonable use of resources proportional to its needs.
There’s something about being at Ecocamp that just makes everything clear and allows me the freedom to look for opportunities... for these so-called “intersection points.” And on one of my recent visits, I found one.
Heading up to Las Torres in 2016, I was enamored with the beauty around me, with my new like-minded hiker friends (shout out to my femme Ecocamp crew!) and my kick-ass knowledgeable guide, Felipe. One thing I wasn’t as jazzed about was the the backpacks being used by Felipe and some of the other guides to haul all of our gear/lunches up the mountain. For a place so focused on function, sustainability and wellbeing, I was disappointed that the guides were not equipped with the very best equipment from an equally well-purposed brand.
Being a Deuter ambassador, it was a no-brainer for me to go home and make an introduction between the Ecocamp staff and the Deuter team. Not exactly a traditional partnership – a hotel and a backpack brand – but again, this is where “intersections” come into play (you certainly don’t see the Ritz Carlton at Outdoor Retailer).
Not only are both of these companies built on making adventure and nature as accessible and comfortable as possible, but both also exist on an everyday ethos of sustainability, doing good, and making the Earth a better place. Something we can all get on board with.
Over the course of the year, the Ecocamp and Deuter teams worked together to make an official sponsorship come to fruition. Now all of the Ecocamp guides proudly carry Deuter packs on their day/overnight adventures leading guests into the wilds of Patagonia. The Ecocamp community store is packed with similar gear/options for purchase. Additionally, the Ecocamp team has forged a new relationship with Deuter’s local Chilean distributors, from whom they also now purchase other necessary outdoor gear, and help support the local Chilean economy via these purchases.
Looking back at it now, this type of partnership seems so obvious. I ask myself: why wouldn't these organizations be partnered together, working towards these goals in tandem? Why couldn't this be done in a way that also contributes to the local economy? And more importantly... where else could this be done?
My message here is simple: people will always try to limit you to one field, to one focus area, or to say you cannot possibly give ample attention to two completely areas of interest, and must choose. And those people will be wrong.
Find your intersections. Create some magic.
All photos courtesy of Timothy Dhalleine at Ecocamp Patagonia. EcoCamp Patagonia was selected as the 32nd Best Hotel in the World and the 2nd Best Hotel in South America in Travel + Leisure's prestigious World's Best Awards.
Check out more of Laura's intrepid travels in her other blog posts: