Many of the most powerful world-changing ideas come from the experiences and challenges entrepreneurs have faced in their own lives. But working inside a big corporation or having an established business that you’re looking to reinvent might need a more systematic approach to identifying opportunities for business growth.
Here’s my take on a mix of tools and mindsets that can build up a framework to spot disruptive business opportunities:
1. Set-up purpose driven metrics
First things first: what is business growth to you? Doubling your revenue should no longer be your only growth metric. Have a closer look at your environment. How can you generate value without harming the environment and the society around you?
Depending on your activities, you might need to completely redefine how you measure success and how you think about business opportunities. Your consumers, business leaders, and employees do care:
83% of consumers think companies should be actively shaping ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) best practices.
91% of business leaders believe their company has a responsibility to act on ESG issues.
86% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do.
Not sure where to start? Go local. Find out what are the most pressing issues your community has and how can you improve their lives. Or have a look at the Sustainable Development Goals. You can then break them down to the needs of your own company, employees, and community.
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2. Keep an eye on consumer trends
A consumer trend is a new manifestation among people – in behavior, attitude, or expectation – of a fundamental human need, want or desire. Simply put, consumer trends help you spot a pattern in what customers will want in the future.
There are hundreds of trend agencies, databases, and publications out there. Bookmark them and make a habit out of browsing through them every once in a while.
Trendwatching.com has amazing content that you can scan for free as well as an affordable trend database that is updated on a daily basis. While searching for trends remember that the most exciting opportunities will come from outside your industry. So don’t get stuck with looking at your competitors.
3. Stop looking at customers and start looking at businesses
A counter-intuitive truth to spotting business opportunities as the authors of Trend-Driven Innovation state in the book: if you want to know what customers will want next, stop observing them (ethnographically), crunching their data, or asking them directly. Start looking at the products, services, and businesses they are lavishing attention on right now.
In other words, keep an eye on the innovations that are being launched on the market, that are changing people’s behavior, answering their needs and expectations in new and special ways.
Beyond trend databases, another interesting source for new businesses is startup competitions and incubators. These innovators are placing bets on the future. Spotting a pattern in their bets will give you a pretty interesting look at emerging markets and new opportunities for your business.
4. Innovate every step of your customer journey
A solid framework for spotting disruptive business opportunities means keeping a good balance between looking outside your company as well as inside, analyzing what your customers are currently doing and how they interact with your service/product.
An often overlooked source yet full of opportunities is your customer journey, the touchpoints your customers have with your service/product.
Take each touchpoint and turn it into a workshop session with your team. Add consumer trends into the mix to get inspired and innovate on each and every interaction your customers have with your brand.
5. Listen. Then, ask ‘why’.
Part of the process of identifying a business opportunity involves listening without judgment. In other words: empathizing.
No matter if inside your organization with employees and stakeholders or when meeting external potential customers or inspiring experts try to find out what is on their minds at the moment and why. Asking why enough times will bring to the surface some of the most powerful insights from some of the most random conversations.
Absorb what you learn about your current offering, and evaluate your findings objectively.
You’ll no doubt start finding business opportunities in their feedback that you might not have considered otherwise.
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Rather than thinking long about which approach would work best in spotting disruptive business opportunities for your company, it is more important to try them out and then run these activities on a regular basis. In today’s fast-paced world, if you feel comfortable in your (business) shoes, it might be too late…
In reality, opportunities always lie around the corner but it’s what you make of them that matters most.
One of Karl Lagerfeld’s most famous quotes is: “The most important piece in the house is the garbage can”. And it’s the same with business opportunities. You’ll have to know how to prioritize them, which ones to keep and go for now and which ones to park for later.
Not every revolutionary idea or unique twist on a current product/service/business is worth pursuing. Knowing how to figure out the difference — and fast — is something we specialized in at The Ventury by repeatedly building, experimenting, and learning. Contact us to get our experts’ support for your ideas.