Instead of research, just search

Opportunities are all around you. But to benefit from them, you must first see them. Many people do research, but still miss opportunities. How do we search rather than just research?

Most companies do research in pursuit of opportunities, but unfortunately the research tends to focus only on the market, or on competitors. That’s often the only type of research that they do.

Most market research focuses on whether customers are satisfied with current offerings, whether there are gaps in the market, how the company’s products stack up versus competitors, and so on.

Market research will typically lead you to benchmark yourself vis-à-vis existing competitors. This leads companies to create innovations that are tweaks to current products and services, that somehow fill in small gaps with existing competitors.

But focusing only on existing customers and competitors leads them to miss big opportunities.

If Apple had based its opportunities on the satisfaction of its existing customers about its existing products, would it ever have ever invented the iPad, iPod and iPhone? Of course not.

Traditional market research tends to keep you in the same box and keeps you from looking outside that box for opportunities created by change in your wider environment.

Imagine the kind of research Blackberry must have been doing when it was a dominant brand. It probably asked questions like: “How do you like the Blackberry keyboard compared to Nokia’s product? How could it be improved?”

By focusing on existing customers, competitors, products and features, this sort of traditional research completely missed the smartphone opportunity created by changes in its domain environment.

Rather than doing only market research, you must search for opportunities by auditing all four segments of your environment: your mission, model, market, and domain. You also need to include all your stakeholders in this search, not just customers.

What’s your objective? To discover opportunities for useful service. Not just for current customers, but for anyone in your environment. You may know who your current customers are, but you can only guess about who your future customers should be. By using a systematic opportunity search process, you can stop guessing and discover ways of serving them before someone else does.