Searching for innovation opportunities

Published on July 31, 2022   7 min
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My name is John Bessant. I'm Emeritus Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Exeter in the UK. This talk is all about the challenge of searching for innovation opportunities.
We know that there are many different sources of innovation, and the real challenge we have in managing innovation is where do we start? A random search is probably not a good idea. It would be immensely wasteful, especially when, as we always are with innovation, we have scarce resources. What we need is some kind of a search strategy, some kind of framework to help us to look for those opportunities for innovation.
If we were going to make a journey, we wouldn't simply open the door and step out into the sunshine. with no idea of where we're going, how long will be gone for, what clothes we will need, what other supplies would be a good idea to carry. No, we'd make some kind of plan. Do some kind of preparation. For all but the shortest and most familiar journey, we'd probably find some tools essential to help us make that journey. For example, a compass to help us with direction finding, a clock to keep track of time, binoculars to help us look ahead and see what's coming, pick out unexpected obstacles, and a torch to help us find our way in the dark or in poor visibility. It's the same with innovation search. We can make use of some powerful tools to help us with different aspects of the challenge.
Innovation can take place in many directions. Just as we could turn north, south, east or west as we leave our front door. Having a compass can help us map where innovation could be possible. In particular, we can think about four Ps. We can think about products, our products, our services. Changes in the way we offer something to the world. We can think about processes. Changes in the way we create and deliver our offerings. We can think about positioning. Changes in our offering in different markets. Different stories we might tell about our products and services and we can think about changing the underlying paradigm, the underlying business model, the way we think about what we do. We also have the idea of a spectrum. Innovation can be both incremental, doing what we do better, and it can be radical, doing something completely different. In our developing search framework, we need to make sure we're covering all of that spectrum. Looking at opportunities to exploit what we already know and also explore new possibilities.