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Spotting New Innovation Opportunities
Frameworks & Methods | Foresight

How to Spot Innovation Opportunities

In a rapidly evolving world driven by constant change and technological advancements, the ability to identify innovation opportunities has become a vital skill for individuals and organizations alike. Innovation opportunities can arise from various sources, such as emerging technologies, shifting consumer needs, market disruptions, and societal trends. In this blog, we explore the value propositions for developing opportunity spaces, and what impact can they have on your business. 

What are opportunity spaces?

Strategic innovation fields, or “opportunity spaces” as we refer to them at ITONICS, are found by connecting the dots between the information organizations have garnered in their foresight intelligence journey, so they can develop scenarios and identify promising opportunities for future growth. Opportunity spaces illuminate to advantageous positions where organizations can innovate and develop new ideas for products and services. 

The importance of identifying innovation opportunities

If a company focuses on incremental innovation and simple stage-gate ideation processes only, it won’t keep up in the long run. Disruptive technologies or innovations boost new business models that change the game of existing industries like the space industry (SpaceX), the music industry (Spotify), the film industry (Netflix), or the banking sector (FinTechs), just to name a few. In addition to transforming entire industries, disruptive business models also push and promote paradigm changes. When talking about innovation, existing companies should, therefore, be entitled to create those breakthroughs by themselves.

The innovator’s dilemma

The current business landscape necessitates that CTOs, CIOs, and members of C-suites need to have an innovation management strategy that enables a sustainable innovation culture that leverages both internal resources and external industry shifts. We have seen that when there is a lack of buy-in from employees or leadership not willing to invest in the requisite innovation infrastructure, organizations can appear to be innovating, but in reality, no actual disruption is taking place.

Only a few companies are willing to pursue the whole innovation journey and embark on the adventures it may involve. The majority, however, is still experiencing the “Innovator’s Dilemma,” which means relying too much on old successes and thereby taking the risk of soon being overwhelmed by digital disruption and the increasing speed of innovation.

Is there a pattern for disruption & breakthroughs?

There is no instruction or construction toolkit for disruption. Although many disruptive companies are based on new technologies, this path does not automatically lead to success. Disruptions arise when companies approach innovation in a fundamentally different way than their competitors. It is essential to recognize how new technologies can be used in such a way that they offer tangible value for the customer.

Companies whose innovation strategies achieve success focus on differentiation by taking the customer’s perspective and providing solutions for hidden needs. To ensure that companies achieve success in meeting customer needs, they need to develop a systemic foresight intelligence process, so they have a clear view of the drivers of change as a means to uncover hidden opportunities. In short, disruptive companies are constantly on the move and try to spot new innovation opportunities by ascertaining where to play, how to win, and what to execute. 

ITONICS Innovation Big Picture

Identifying innovation opportunities – how and where to start?

Instead of feeling powerless or even threatened by the current developments, companies have to go out and search for their own disruptive innovation power. This power can be found within so-called opportunity spaces – a space that offers potential and can be seen as an innovation field or overarching area. Within the innovation process, it defines a company’s “Where to play?” and starts much earlier than the ideation process. For this purpose, an integrated innovation management approach is more comprehensive than the conventional stage-gate process. It defines a business domain in which future growth is possible or even necessary.

When searching for new innovation opportunities, it basically means being able to simultaneously create ideas as part of the innovation management on the one hand and to foresee markets and potentials, called corporate foresight, on the other hand. The goal should be to create a constant stream of ready-to-market innovations that are always aligned with future developments and thus a source for disruption. Corporate foresight does not assert a claim of predicting the future but rather of finding markets that do not exist yet but hold a big potential.

The 5 Thematic Areas of Foresight & Strategy for Spotting Innovation OpportunitiesThe heart of innovation lies in environmental scanning to spot new markets or reveal unmet customer needs in existing markets, even if that means transforming the existing market. When defining new opportunity spaces, innovation managers should therefore, always consider and evaluate the innovation and disruption potential, the addressed target group, the relevance for the defined target market, and the related trends and technologies.

To get started, use our Opportunity Space Canvas template to identify new business opportunities.

The role of big data and data mining in foresight

How do you break it all down to a practical level? It needs a handful of intrapreneurs, experts, and industry insiders – an innovation community that combines the findings of those two worlds, internal and external perspectives, and reveals probable gaps or potential opportunity spots. Yes, this is a mammoth task that can only be mastered by a proactive, practice-oriented, creative, and motivated team.

We live in a world where big data has become ubiquitous and a constant companion. Especially in the area of technology monitoring and technology management, a large amount of quantified data must be analyzed – a task that can no longer be performed purely by a human team.

A software-supported data mining tool that uses visualization analysis and automated scanning processes to show interrelations helps to find relevant signals for opportunity spaces. Discovering and designing an innovation field requires a mixture of data research and intuition. While the innovation team then only has to concentrate on the evaluation effort, a tool can help to design the “where to play” and thus prepare the ground for innovative strength.

Using the ITONICS Innovation OS to spot innovation opportunities

The quest for optimal opportunity spaces needs to trigger organizations to analyze their internal resources alongside the state of their industry. To discover opportunity spaces most relevant to your business operations, organizations need to ask themselves the following questions: 

  • What are the driving forces of change in our industry?
  • How are shifting consumer sentiments affecting our product offering?
  •  What new solution drivers could disrupt our business operations?
  • Does our organization have the internal resources to leverage the drivers of change? 

At ITONICS, we provide an end-to-end innovation management process, from environmental scanning and trend and technology management to strategic foresight, ideation, strategic portfolio management, and roadmapping. The ITONICS Innovation OS is an innovation management tool that enables teams to streamline their innovation activities, identify opportunity spaces, and manage risk factors. 

Our Innovation OS is home to nearly 170 trends and emerging technologies that help kickstart your foresight intelligence journey. Sitting alongside thousands of inspirations that act as real-world proof of innovation in action, our innovation assets give you the strategic edge to take advantage of watershed changes in your industry and discover opportunities.

The ITONICS software allows teams to plan for prepared futures: 

  • Leverage an AI-powered signals feed, and rating system to understand and contextualize drivers of change.
  • Harness the ITONICS Matrix tool to develop scenarios, connect information, and indicate key events along clear and realistic timelines.
  • Use the ITONICS Roadmap to map dependencies, visualize priorities, and highlight strategic focus areas in order to identify promising opportunities for future growth. 

Learn more in a free software demo!



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