Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Some thoughts on identifying potential marketplaces and customers in the face of novelty and innovation – 2

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 26, 2011

This is my second posting in a short series on marketing and selling the truly innovative, and what in Part 1 I identify as emergent unique value propositions:

• An emergent unique value proposition is a value proposition that when effectively marketed becomes the basis for a new and unique blue ocean strategy.

And towards the end of that posting I outlined some of my thoughts as to the basic parameters that have to be dealt with in effectively identifying new and disruptively emergent marketplaces and customer bases, and for fine tuning your innovation to best meet their needs.

One of the approaches that I offered in that was to reach out for insight to help break out of your own pattern of thinking as to what your innovation does and who would want it, and for what end-user applications. And I pick up on this discussion at that point.

• It is easy to be caught up in your own assumptions, unexamined included, as to what your innovation actually is – with that based largely on the product or service, customer and end user application, and marketplace of the closest current offering already out there.
• But at the same time, if your innovation does hold genuine potential for creating blue ocean strategy and opportunity, this older road map cannot work for you.

And this brings me to the central conundrum that I would address here. If your idea for innovation is truly unique, you want and need to hold it and its details close and to maintain a due diligence security of confidentiality around it so others will not simply race you to the marketplace with your own innovation. But at the same time you may very genuinely need insight from others to help you break out of your current thinking. How can you bridge these seemingly contradictory needs?

An obvious answer might be found in bringing in a consultant with wide-ranging experience, and even a consultant whose expertise is in helping clients to identify and break out of conceptual ruts to find new approaches and understandings. And they would be bound in dealing with you and with regard to your innovation by legally drafted non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements – and the process of maintaining secure and exclusive ownership of your innovation while opening out the boundaries of the possible for developing it would be kept essentially in-house.

There is a second, alternative approach that could also be raised here, and my goal in the balance of this posting is to at least briefly explore that – mining social media and the power of the crowd for insight in better identifying new types of marketplace, new types of customers and new and unexpected uses for the truly emergent unique value proposition that you seek to develop. And what follows here are some thoughts as to the basic parameters for managing this so as to retain control and ownership of your core innovation.

• As a general principle, and warning, I start this list by noting a fact that should be obvious. No matter how you seek to do it you have to assume that if you try reaching out to a restricted outside crowd, whatever is discussed there will leak to the general public. And the more valuable and insightful the information developed and shared in any members-only, restricted access crowd, the more likely and the more rapidly it will leak out. So by all means, actively and proactively seek out and require discretion and protection of confidentiality for anything in the discussion threads that are carried out as you seek select outside opinion and insight. But assume that anything truly valuable will be publically tweeted, blogged, emailed, discussed verbally and otherwise posted and shared too. So any strategy for developing outside insight and information should be planned with the potential for public disclosure in mind.
• That means managing and controlling what details you share as your part of the semi-public to perhaps fully public conversation.

With that in mind I propose a very specific way of thinking about and analytically dissecting and considering your core innovation.

• Most innovations, and certainly most disruptively emergent ones begin with a single insight – a single core concept or realization. But translating that into even just an outlined, broadly considered new product or service means elaborating this single concept into a long and even very complex collection of interconnected ideas.
• Some of this cloud of thought and consideration is truly central to what makes your innovation unique and some is much more generally applicable and mostly there in the mix to flesh out realizable details.
• Perhaps more importantly, these various ideas and considerations – all of which could potentially be opened up to the (restricted) crowd – hold different confidentiality values according to a single, and at least conceptually simple basic criterion. If this specific idea A that goes into or strongly connects to the core innovation were to go generally-public, it might be useable to in effect reinvent the whole core innovation idea – but it would most likely take at least X months to do so.
• Any absolute values of X might be unknowable and for any particular piece of this knowledge puzzle – except for the pieces where you would realize that disclosure could mean immediate independent reinvention and immediate outside competition. But you may very well be able to organize potential information that you could share along a disclosure risk level X-axis with some of your ideas and core ideas far enough out there along that axis, so that helping your competition be that close to matching you would not be problematical.
• Think of what you would and would not disclose to outsiders, and even just to select outsiders, in terms of how easily that knowledge could be applied to bringing competitors up to speed with you. Then think in terms of necessary lead times to go to market and to develop first mover advantage.
• And think in terms of tradeoffs between gaining market insight that you could use for this, as opposed to leaking information – which could on the positive side mean buzz for your business and offerings, and on the negative side mean earlier competition.

And, of course, you need to be prepared to act on the knowledge and insight that you receive, and either from consultant-facilitated in-house reimagining, or from the “controlled and selectively limited” crowd.

• So any part of what you would build and develop, that you could do independently of the fine tuning insight you are seeking from the outside, you should be working on already so you can be ready to act as quickly as possible as you gather and process that outside-sourced insight.

This brings this overall discussion to a next step which I will be looking into as a next series installment – bringing crowd-sourced insight in-house, and developing from it, and with a goal of doing so as quickly and efficiently as possible so as to maximize benefits from your blue ocean marketplace capabilities.

You can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and see also Business Strategy and Operations.) You can also find this and related postings at Startups and Early Stage Businesses.

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