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Mar 18 / heathgross

“What’s After Next?”

Leveraging competitive intelligence to identify innovation white space


Today many companies are surveying the market and asking themselves, “What can we make next, how can we improve our product and what would be innovative?”  ‘What’s next?’ can often lead to incremental innovation, continued competition and a lack of differentiation. Instead we should be asking, ‘What’s after next?’  Leveraging competitive intelligence, organizations can look beyond what is next, gaining valuable insight into ‘What’s After Next’, will enable you to pursue true product differentiation, find open, uncontested markets and leap frog the competition.

Speaking of leapfrogging, do you remember this?  Frogger is a great illustration how important it is to plan your strategy several moves ahead.


Are We Asking The Right Questions


It isn’t hard to figure out what the unmet market need is.  Consumers are pretty vocal; ‘I want my phone to be able to do this’, ‘I need an app that can do that’; ‘we need a medical device that is capable of…’  The problem is, everyone is asking those same questions and getting the same answers.  While they may tackle the issue differently, the result is a new wave of products that address the same need, though their approach and ability to meet that need may differ.  The result is threefold:

  • A race to be the first to develop and launch, leading to compromised quality or capability
  • Minimal differentiation
  • Incremental innovation

Is there a way to innovate that avoids this trap?  Yes.  Don’t base your innovation strategy on what is next, instead, look to ‘What’s after next’.

If you want to reach the Lily Pad, or in this case “white space”, you have to navigate dangerous roads, roaring rivers, crocodiles and snakes.


Looking for ‘What’s After Next’


How do you do that?  It requires a very different process.  Most innovation today is based on what consumers want or need today.  While there is some consideration for what is already in the competitor pipeline, the focus is usually on how to do the next thing better.  Again, this results in waves of similar products hitting the market within the same window, forcing them to compete on price and features, rather than on meeting an unmet need.

A smarter use of our innovation resources would be to focus on ‘what’s after next’.


Where is the white space in the innovation pipeline?  There is a three step process we can use to do that:

1)     Map the consumer needs

2)     Map the innovation pipelines of the competitive landscape

3)     Look for white space opportunities beyond what is next

For those organizations that are more risk averse, and that have the resources, there is another step that can be used:

4)     Develop a strategy that balances low-risk incremental innovation with higher-risk white space innovation.


Looking For Whitespaces


How do you find the innovation white spaces? Figuring out what the competition is working on can be challenging. While their ‘next’ innovation may be fairly public and well known within the market, their pipeline is likely less public. There is a chance they are already working on their ‘What’s after next’ innovation. A common technique for gaining insight into future innovation is by examining the paper trail created in the R&D period of innovation. Conducting patent analysis, analyzing new hires and studying the competitors’ technology licensing and acquisition strategy are all useful techniques in trying to ascertain where a competitor might be innovating ‘after next’.

But there is still an even better way: competitive intelligence can be leveraged to provide details of competitor R&D and innovation strategies. This information can then be used to identify the innovation white spaces.

TO LEARN MORE: Please contact Sedulo Group. And later this month we will add a video for a more detailed understanding of identifying the innovation white spaces.

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