Ambassador Series, Part 3 — Written by Ubald Kragten, Comintelli Ambassador and founder of EyE on I, Innovation scouting consultancy, and Kari Syrjä, Head of Growth at Comintelli
Spotting the next innovation wave needs to be on the agenda of every company. Nevertheless, your current insights to grow and defend the value of your company are essential for daily operations.
We argue that these are two sides of the same coin. Identifying today's innovations being one side and catching the value of emerging future opportunities, the other.
It can be very challenging to look at both sides of the coin at the same time.
Consider the B2B context of the European energy supply situation. Many countries and businesses are being heavily impacted by the Ukraine war and their dependency on Russian natural gas. To replace the risk, new contracts are required with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) suppliers, for instance. And such massive changes are not decided nor implemented overnight.
In this context, what is the alternative side of the same coin?
Already a long time before the Russian attack on Ukraine, the Western economies had committed themselves to transition towards fossil-free energy generation, which requires a drastic system change. Even though energy price hikes have pushed up renewable energy investments to record levels, the benefits of those investments on scale take time. LNG short-term solutions represent carbon outputs and work against climate goal commitments.
If global energy matters sound too far away from a local business perspective, let’s showcase the same matter with another B2B2C example with retailers.
A retailer will typically look at its market share compared to a well-defined set of peers. They adapt pricing and campaigns and may change the look and feel of shops compared to competitors.
Most retailers, however, will not be too worried about some small shop that recently opened just around their corner, even though or especially, if that particular shop represents some entirely new concept leveraging the potential of digital opportunities. Most often, the retailer does not even notice that a brand-new channel has opened.
Finally, from the consumer B2C angle, if you’re in the movie and TV series business, growth is increasingly about where and how the produced entertainment is consumed in addition to what people would like to watch.
With these three examples, you can see that future value drivers may require changing your entire business model. It means implementing new technologies, developing new distribution channels, and engaging your customers in completely new ways.
To keep an eye on innovation and to capitalize on these emerging futures, one must look at both sides of the coin to secure both the current and the future value of the company.
Within most organizations, the following knowledge management challenges are reported frequently:
From a knowledge management and insights process perspective, it is important for a company to address both sides of the coin while keeping them separated.
If you’re fully focused on running your day-to-day business needs, adapting your prices and portfolio based on seasonal demand and other operational factors, your time for innovation is scarce and focus is everything. Hence, you do not want to be disturbed by the noise from somewhat unrelated events happening on the outskirts of your industry. You will simply pass and move on.
At the same time, longer-term developments require continuous attention. Every company needs to address long-term opportunities and threats while the frequency and intensity of such scanning will be industry-dependent.
Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) focused companies tend to look at next year's portfolio with new product introductions, minor product improvements, and new offerings, whereas further on the horizon, a complete category change might create better opportunities to accelerate growth.
One such example is the growing trend of non-animal-based meat and dairy alternatives in food production, which has started to create impact throughout the industry.
As highlighted above, knowledge management and insights processes discover opportunities. The focus is on identifying and amplifying the signals spotted from the haystack of messages, issues, and priorities.
This is a shared responsibility of both business leaders and product development researchers. The difference is that competitor moves, new emerging companies, new business models, new ecosystems, venture capital investments, and governmental support programs are usually on the table of business leaders. In contrast, scientific developments, intellectual property, patent filings, and emerging technologies are more the focus of the R&D community.
Change will not happen overnight but spotting signals needs to be a continuous effort.
The first step in amplifying trends can be set by combining these signals. Connected findings paint a picture of opportunities for a company to grow. These pictures can be translated into narratives, alternative scenarios, triggering brainstorming workshops, and more. All of these efforts are preparing an organization to decide where to invest and why.
Spotting signals of change require a different set of lenses. It starts with the natural curiosity of the people involved in innovation as part of the knowledge management and insights-producing process.
Furthermore, it is crucial to realize that your current set of sources must be extended significantly. The good news is that most of your existing tools can continue to be used. In other words, this doesn’t necessarily translate into a steep cost increase.
Many excellent reports are available (almost) free of charge, such as annual trend reports by leading global consulting companies. Similarly, venture capital and public sector governmental reports highlight where both private and public money is directed to.
In summary, you can keep your current set-up while expanding it to discover new areas. You only need a different set of lenses to start looking beyond the core focal areas for today's business landscape and to create internal stories that trigger the discussion across business units and stakeholders about the next innovation wave and how to capture it.
Overwhelmed? Curious about how to move forward? Ubald Kragten and Comintelli are glad to help you on your innovation journey to spot the next innovation wave.
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