Former Nike innovation expert Erez Morag told the Tripartite Summit in Auckland that innovation comes from cross pollination.
Morag worked with Olympic athletes and other stars including tennis player Roger Federer during his time at Nike from 1998 to 2011. He founded programmes that linked product and business innovation.
"I was inspired by athletes with great movement and motion and got into biomechanics," he told the summit.
Innovation was crucial in sports and this could be translated into business where there was the need for practical training solutions and high-speed decision making.
He said the style introduced by high jumper Dick Fosbury was a classic example of sports innovation that had far-reaching application around the world with other jumpers.
An example of cross pollination in sport could be seen in the meeting between Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman and running coach Arthur Lydiard.
"[Jogging was] invented in New Zealand and commercialised in the United States."
Research by Nike found that most crucial to football players was speed over the first 10m so the Oregon-based firm developed a boot that was lighter by up to 150g than existing boots that weighed up to 350g.
At Nike Morag was involved in product development leading to 25 patents as a result of cross pollination. He said 10 per cent of his team's time was dedicated to developing new skills.
And the best way of running successful meetings was to make sure the highest ranking staff member was the last to speak.
Morag founded Acceler8 Performance and speaks around the world to business leaders, engineers, entrepreneurs and students to use sport science principles to enhance their businesses.