Where you can sense ideas from

horizon-scanningLast week I looked at some of the areas you can look to for inspiration when hunting for new ideas.  One of the most profitable is to scan your horizons, and I’ve written extensively before about the need for innovative organizations to be expert at sensing what’s happening in their market, and responding rapidly to the changes they observe.

The following are some methods you can use to sense potential innovation ideas from your surroundings.

Scope niche products

One of the inherent advantages of small companies is that they have the agility to try novel things out, and they also tend to operate in the niches that go unnoticed by larger companies.

By monitoring these niches, you might discover a product or solution that is suitable for a much larger audience.

Look at outliers

Innovation often occurs when there is no other alternative.  As such, this can often be the preserve of adventurous users of a product or an independent inventor who are so frustrated with how things are that they take matters into their own hands.

Whilst the majority of these independent folks will end up losing time and money on their efforts, a small fraction will hit upon something worth perusing, either through purchasing their company or licensing their solution.

The likes of Quirky have revolutionized how these sort of connections can be made, and numerous companies have taken advantage of them.

Look in unusual places

It’s often the case that when an innovation is construed by a smaller organization, they’re doing so in a geographically remote location.  Even with the rise of innovation hubs, there is still a big world out there for finding ideas and inspiration.

Look to universities

It’s estimated that there is a 10-15 year lag between research emerging from universities and those insights reaching practice in industry.  Clearly therefore, a better relationship with academia can deliver innovations ahead of the pack.

Whether you’re keeping tabs on the research emanating from the best schools, or the brightest minds as they set forth on their own journeys, it makes sense to keep tabs on this world for the best ideas and latest thinking.

So how can you do these things?  There are a number of ways you can ensure you are successfully scanning the environment for great ideas (including hiring me).  Here are four of the main ones:

  1. Active scanning – there are ways of tapping into insights from both the academic and commercial worlds if you know where to look.  If you would like help with this, I can either train staff accordingly, or setup regular content feeds with this information.
  2. Social networking – social networks remain a key source of new insights.  You will want to ensure that you tap into the network of your employees, and ensure you recruit people that have access to the networks you require
  3. Passive reception – you may be fortunate to be in a field where ideas and innovators regularly flock to you, so you may not need to do much active horizon scanning.  Such people are very much in the minority however
  4. Contests – innovation contests are something that I’ve covered a load of times on here over the last few years, and they’re a good way at attracting innovators to you

Hopefully these should give you a few ideas on how you can ensure you have access to the latest thinking and ideas.  If you’d like to discuss any of them, feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below.

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