1. New applications for existing technologies. Sir James Dyson’s bag-less vacuum cleaner technology was inspired by the way a local sawmill used a giant cyclone to lift and remove sawdust from the air.
  2. Combine disparate technologies. Apple’s iPod and iTunes, brought together the digital downloading technology pioneered by Napster, Creative’s MP3 player technology, and Apple’s existing software capabilities, to create an integrated, intuitive music system.
  3. Exploit the unexpected. Stay curious and identify what unexpected successes and failures – your own, your competitors’ and other companies’ – and identify what opportunities they could create. 3M, perhaps the avatar innovative company, only became successful when it moved into abrasives, which resulted from its desire to do something with the minerals and grit the company had on its hands from its failed mining business (3M’s name comes from its original title – Minnesota Mining and Minerals Company).
  4. Make existing products and technologies far easier to use. The detergent brand, Ariel, created a lead in its category by replacing washing powder with tablets, which are far easier for customers to handle.
  5. Take existing innovations into new markets. UK train company, Chiltern Railways, has adopted the low-fare airline model to offer its passengers a low-price, low-service (there are no first class carriages, for instance) rail service between London and the Midlands.
  6. Older customers. The demographic trends are unarguable – over 50s, over 60s, over 70s and over 80s are becoming a bigger, more important sector of most consumer markets.
  7. Radically reduce the cost and accessibility of existing products and services. George at Asda has become the UK’s #1 clothing brand based on the grocer’s ability to exploit its low-cost retail space, operating model and supply chain and offer its customers a significant price discount on everyday fashion.
  8. Exploit internal capabilities. IBM’s consulting business was built on the back of the CEO’s insight that the technical support teams were highly valued by IBM’s customers. Within 10 years of its launch IBM Global Services was delivering 35% of the group’s profits.
  9. Market shifts and fractures. Businesses succeed when they become the first player to successfully exploit shifts in their market. What are the shifts and fractures that are taking place in your markets, and what opportunities do they offer you?
  10. Identify what won’t change. Amazon has focused its innovation on three factors that they believe will remain important to customers over the next 10 years: bigger range, greater speed and lower prices. What are the constant trends driving your customers’ behaviour?

© Stuart Cross 2011. All rights reserved.