Entrepreneurs are always seeking market openings and opportunities to introduce new products. Sometimes this seeking leads them to unusual or arcane opportunities when more valuable and straightforward opportunities abound right under their noses. We all tend to suffer from the safety of sameness--trying to create a slightly new or better mousetrap, when there are a host of opportunities to innovate the mousetrap. In reality there are many opportunities for any innovator willing to look beyond offering a product or service. I'll introduce a way of evaluating new opportunities and provide two examples of how you can identify far more opportunities.
Doblin's Ten Types
I'll refer you to Doblin's Ten Types model, which describes ten different innovation outcomes. While innovators often focus on product, ignoring other types, increasingly the real opportunities lie elsewhere. Innovating services, experiences, business models, channels and value networks are real possibilities that are too often overlooked or ignored. The range of innovation potential is exceptionally large, and every opportunity should be examined to understand the opportunity to innovate not the base product or service, but the experience, business model, channel or other types Doblin describes.
Putting this concept into action
Let's look at a couple of examples. While few entrepreneurs innovate specifically around customer experience, certainly none would innovate around bad experience. Or would they? Ed Debevic's, a well-known restaurant in Chicago, does exactly that. It plays off the old idea of the wise-cracking waiter or waitress. Woe to the person who is unprepared to order their meal or asks too many questions. I don't remember if the food is all that good, but the entrepreneur who started Ed Debevic's was focused on an unusual customer experience. While we all focus on good experience, even a "bad" experience can be an opportunity. Of course unintentionally bad experience, like the experience the airlines are giving their passengers lately, isn't a winning proposition.
Or take advertising on clothing. Today many people are walking billboards, providing free marketing for brands, even paying extra for the privilege. Yet we think nothing of watching pro golfers or NASCAR drivers who get paid to wear logos and brands. How long will it be until a clothing entrepreneur pays you to wear their clothing, provided that the clothing has advertising on it? This would be a business model innovation - doing for clothing what Google did for software.
These and other opportunities abound because larger corporations, once they've developed a product or service will continue to emphasize the existing product or service. They won't risk innovating around the other aspects or types as Doblin suggests because they are afraid of confusing their customers or "cannibalizing" their existing revenue streams. The opportunities are out there - entrepreneurs enjoy a wealth of choice when it comes to competing and innovating against established companies. Always consider every possible angle, every possible innovation type, when you start your company or create a new product or service.