The editors of Fortune came up with a fun idea for the magazine’s “Best Companies to Work For” issue: Invite the CEOs of two employee-friendly retailers to trade places for a day. Maxine Clark (founder and CEO of publicly held Build-a-Bear) and Kip Tendell (cofounder and CEO of the privately held Container Store) agreed to give it a try.

Despite obvious differences in each business, the temporary job-swap yielded valuable insights. “When the two leaders spent a day working on the front lines of each other’s operations,” notes Bill Taylor at Harvard Business Review, “they encountered all kinds of ideas about merchandising, employee motivation, and in-store communication that worked in one place, and might just work in the other if those ideas were exported to and adapted for the new environment.”

  • Clark, for instance, appreciated how the Container Store acknowledges sales associates for a job well done with Post-It notes left on lockers.
  • Kendell, meanwhile, liked Build-a-Bear’s “Strive for Five” technique, which is designed to sell each customer five items.

“I’ve seen it time and again,” says Taylor. “Leaders who are hungry for new ideas don’t just aspire to learn from the ‘best in class’ in their narrowly defined field. They also aspire to learn from organizations outside their field as a way to shake things up and make real change.”

Look for innovation wherever you can find it—even if it means adapting an idea from another industry.

Source: Harvard Business Review.