How to Spot Innovation Opportunities that Others Miss

Man standing on a cliff with a binoculars.

Spotting new opportunities is an important part of innovation. Becoming anticipatory means looking at industry trends to determine how they are shaping your industry both internally and externally.

When used correctly, this innovation strategy can be effective in helping you identify new ideas that live outside the boundaries of conventional thinking. This is what is known as the Law of Opposites, a concept employed in a wide range of industries.

Overcome Obstacles

Overcoming obstacles is an essential aspect of gaining a competitive edge. This may mean offering one of your distinguishing products in a slightly different form to appeal to a new sector of your audience. For example, a restaurant might offer two options of their signature burger, one with beef, and another that is plant-based.

Manage Change Proactively

Organizations are constantly adapting to change. Anticipatory leadership calls for the right leaders to address the challenge. In “What Leaders Really Do,”  John Kotter notes: 

“They don’t make plans; they don’t solve problems; they don’t even organize people. What leaders really do is prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.”

One key is to follow the hard trends, projections of events or objects based on tangible facts that can be measured and predicted. These can usually be identified before they have an impact on your business and customers.

Involve Your Employees

Employees who understand the value of making predictions will take an integral role in shaping the future. Encourage them to embrace unpredictable disruptions and turn them into opportunities.

Learn from Potential Problems

Predicting possible problems can lead to spotting opportunities others may miss. Making these predictions allows you to plan for the future. If you already have an idea of how to handle an issue before it arises, you will have a better chance of avoiding it altogether.

Share your predictions with other stakeholders so everyone has the same view of future trends. This will create a sense of empowerment and confidence throughout the entire organization.

Differentiate Predictions

According to a recent study, approximately 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies will be replaced by startups over the next ten years. That’s a sobering thought, and it highlights the importance of looking ahead to spot potential opportunities.

Sometimes you can predict what will happen based on hard trends. Other things are more difficult to know for sure, and fall into the “maybe” category. Once you can look at the trends in more detail and figure out those that will happen versus those that might, you can predict certainties and use them when forming an innovation strategy. (For example, you know technology will continue getting faster and more robust over time. Cloud-based computing is becoming more popular every day and will only continue to grow.)

Certainty allows you to keep moving forward. Look at how changes are taking place, and use that information to take advantage of existing opportunities while also creating new ones.

Execution is crucial, but in the constantly changing business landscape of today, it simply is not enough. Learning how to anticipate upcoming trends is what will set you apart from your competitors and help you build a successful innovation strategy that will carry your business far into the future.

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