I am always looking for new ways to be innovative.  I love that through Inc, I get the chance to speak with so many experts on innovation, such as Clayton Christensen, Sunni Brown, Adrian Slywotzky and Geoffrey Moore.  These experts shake up my initial notions on innovation and inspire me to try new techniques with my company.  So when I came across Mark Proffitt’s predictive innovation workshop, I was very intrigued.  Imagine being able to predict what consumers will want before it is available on the market.  Imagine not playing catch-up with your product, but being the frontrunner of an amazing solution.  To learn more, I spoke with Proffitt himself.  I was so impressed that I took Proffitt’s workshop on predictive innovation -- here’s a summary of what I learned.

Perfect Solution for Every Problem

A main lesson that I learned is that there is a perfect solution for every problem that exists.  Take transportation, for example.  Right now, most of us drive cars. There are many fatal accidents on roads every single day.  According to Proffitt’s analysis, consumers currently choose safety over fuel emission when considering which car to purchase.  The government, however, has pushed strongly for better fuel mileage which is why hybrids are on the rise in car production.  That’s an important improvement but it still leaves an unmet desire in the car industry: supreme safety. 

Proffitt argues that cars must become a lot safer before we can jump to the next generation of automotive technology, which he believes could be something as futuristic as flying cars.  Proffitt believes that safety and better fuel efficiency can harmoniously coexist in this futuristic world:  “If you do not have the stop and go of traffic all the time, it’s a safer environment for driving and you also get better fuel efficiency.”  But what is the perfect solution for transportation?  I say that it’s the Star Trek transporter.  It gets you where you want to go instantly with no accidents. One of the examples in the workshop showed how to predict this.

Step-by-Step Path to Innovation

Proffitt has a structured way to find innovative solutions that will meet unmet desires in the market.  One part of the structured approach is to look at solutions as One, Many, and Continuous which will help you further your predictions.  Take, for example, the use of video between video makers and video viewers.  The One maker for Many viewers option appeared first—the cinema.  Next came Many video makers to Many viewers: TV.  After that came home movies (One maker to One viewer) and surveillance (Many video makers to One viewer).  The expansion of TV, with movie rentals and subscription services, shifted TV from Many viewers to Continuous viewers.  This opened up many options for innovation. Satellite TV along with sponsored web content satisfied the Many makers to Continuous viewers role.  YouTube was successful because it filled the Continuous makers to Continuous viewers role. 

Predictive innovation shows a progression of improvements in a cyclical pattern leading to the perfect product; once a product is out, customers’ unmet desires are measured and the process goes back through the whole cycle all over again, producing an even better product to meet another unmet need.  You see this with Apple products.  First there was the iPod, then the iPhone, then the iPad.  It started with an initial piece of software and then expanded.  Steve Jobs had the idea of the iPad before the iPhone, but the iPhone was produced first since there was a bigger need for touch technology to be incorporated into a phone.  But Apple was aware that in the future, the iPad would be a need that customers would ask for and they were ready to deliver.

With this information, I can’t help but wonder what opportunities in innovation exist for timesheet software. How can someone continuously enter their time as opposed to going into a timesheet software program and entering their time once a week?

What opportunities exist in your industry?  Can you capitalize on them in the next year?  How do you, as a consumer, react when a piece of truly innovative technology is produced?

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx.  Explore more best business practices on the Journyx Blog.