Updated: Apr 22
Author P.C. Cast said,“in chaos lies opportunity.” I disagree. When you’re looking for opportunities, you need to focus; to create order from chaos. In the past couple posts, we’ve stepped through a workflow to begin that effort. Now, we’ll continue to focus your market research to find market-driven innovation.
So far, I’ve offered two sides of the same market-driven innovation coin: the Market Opportunity Spectrum, which helps you clarify what innovation means to your organization; and the Market Understanding Spectrum, which offers a level of market research that corresponds with the degree of innovation you’re after.
Armed with this alignment, we'll focus your innovation discovery efforts by defining Objects.
What Are “Objects?”
Objects are who or what you want to learn about. You learn about them to serve, sell to, leverage or otherwise interact. Identifying Objects is a powerful way to focus your discovery efforts without cutting off promising, if indirect, sources of inspiration.
Depending on the degree of innovation you aspire to, the Objects are different. If your strategy is to be the premier provider of your existing product to the existing market, your Objects will be relatively few. If you want to find completely new problems to solve, your list of Objects will be significantly more expansive - likely far beyond the markets you serve and the product you offer today.
Examples of Objects by Innovation Phase
Let's explore some examples of Objects for each phase of innovation:
What Are Objects for Reactive Innovation?
Reactive Innovation is exactly what is sounds like: do what your users tell you to do. This may not sound much like innovation, but there are times in any product lifecycle where the most important goal is keeping existing users happy with what they already have. Your Objects will be current product users and the product itself. If your goal is to keep existing customers happy while spending minimal resources to do so, your focus can be this tight. But what if you’re looking to do more?
Responsive Innovation: A Baby Step Beyond Reactive
The goal of Responsive Innovation is to anticipate the needs of product users, their leaders and others involved in the buying process by being on the lookout for regulatory, association or other governing bodies that could change the requirements of your market or you. To deliver Responsive Innovation Objects will also include Competitors and those who influence your markets, such as analysts or crowdsourced rating sites.
So far, Objects are fairly straightforward, and probably who you’re listening to today. To lead - or create - an industry, your focus will expand to include Objects you may not have thought of before. This transition begins with Inventive Innovation.
Inventive Innovation: Workflows and Trends
Inventive Innovation is about expansion: building new solutions for markets you already serve or offering current products to new markets. To find market-driven opportunities to invent, you’ll listen to adjacent personas and markets, but workflows may also become Objects, in order to understand where there may be opportunities in an aggregated process.
Inventive Innovation is also where you add the concept of time to your investigation. Trends may or may not be standalone Objects, but trend information can help you further prioritize the expanded opportunities you find when listening to invent. Are some market problems more important than before? What functional role is no longer part of the buying process?
Now – the big kahuna: Disruptive Innovation. How can we possibly focus when trying to find a game-changing idea? Isn’t this where chaos has to reign? Just the opposite – it’s where you most need to focus your efforts in order to find inspiration you can act on.
Disruptive Innovation – Where Focus is Most Critical
Organizations that practice Disruptive Innovation synthesize information from a wide variety of sources, but they know what they do, and who they do it for. Honing your focus down to the types of problems you solve allows you to have an expansive list of Objects to listen to when looking to disrupt. You’ll identify Objects far beyond your users, buyers and markets while remaining focused on who you want to be. Objects will come from the world at large and could include emerging technologies used in a different industry or pricing methodologies used in other markets. Synergy will drive Disruptive Innovation – asking about each Object, “how could this be used to solve a problem for my markets?”
Finding innovation opportunities isn't as easy as asking the market what they want you to build. But it’s a waste of time and resources to wander through the world hoping an innovative idea appears in the chaos. Charlie Munger, vice-chair of Berkshire Hathaway, said “opportunity comes to the prepared mind.” In this case, a prepared mind is on that focuses on the Objects that will drive meaningful success.
About the Author
Diane Pierson is the Founder and Principal Market Strategist at Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy helping organizations achieve market-driven success through planning, executing and communicating effective product innovation. Diane is also a visiting instructor at Pragmatic Institute. Contact Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org.