A few months ago, I was introduced to a new friend by a mutual acquaintance. We discussed our shared interests, realized that we have many connections in common, had attended the same functions, but had never met. Although we work in different professions, we shared a deep interest in sustainability and environmental stewardship. We agreed to meet again to pick up the conversation. I jokingly noted, “Why did we not meet beforehand?” My new friend, in a rather embarrassed fashion, said: “I guess I stopped looking for new friends.”

I was reminded of my new friend when the American Medical Association (AMA) announced its adoption of guidance on the application of LED street-lighting. The guidance offered communities guidelines to protect itself from potential harmful human and environmental effects of LED lighting. Media outlets picked up the story with newsworthy titles such as LED Streetlights Are Good for the Earth, Bad for Humans and Wildlife and Doctors issue warning about LED streetlights. The lighting industry, which was not consulted by the AMA prior to issuing the guidance, immediately responded with caution and politely asked to work collaboratively with the AMA moving forward. At Evergreen, we developed a client briefing document to help our clients wade through the policy implications. I’m sure that the lighting industry and the AMA were equally surprised by each other’s reaction to the guidance and are likely asking “Why did we not meet beforehand?”

This situation aside, we’re starting to see interesting new partnerships come together from diverse industries that share a common interest in energy. The IT giant Oracle recently purchased the energy efficiency customer engagement company Opower. Carmaker and rocket builder Telsa, seeks to buy the renewable energy developer, Solar City. New York utilities and solar companies recently collaborated to develop a joint proposal on net metering. These new alliances offer intriguing possibilities.

Innovation is no stranger in the lighting industry with brand new businesses entering the LED manufacturing space. These companies come from broad and unrelated backgrounds with different ambitions, skills, and cultures. And they are innovating in areas never before imagined by the lighting industry. Businesses are working to integrate lighting into IT networks, customer engagement strategies, retail store sales operations, and security systems.

The lesson for the traditional lighting industry is simple. We need to seek out and build new relationships with those outside of our close-knit group of lighting partners or be left in the dark. Together, we can reinvent how lighting contributes to nearly every aspect of our lifestyle and seek ways to integrate lighting into other daily functions. It may start with a simple introduction, but it can produce powerful results for the community and the industry.