Magnets for Innovation Needles in a Haystack

Each department in a business collects and spreads performance information throughout their organization. They know their own numbers well and are incentivized to improve them. For successful businesses, all of that data is telling them to keep doing what they are doing.

But, new kinds of information aren’t as easy to collect and spread, which is a problem because new information drives innovation.

The beginning of a new market regime, where your products don’t match the market, starts out insignificantly small. You might have a customer satisfaction of 97%, but the innovation might be living in that 3%. Or it might be pointing to an uninteresting niche that you should ignore. It’s hard to know if outliers are noise or a new signal.

If this problem is like finding a needle in a haystack, then we need a metal detector or, even better, a magnet.

In Noticing Opportunities Using an AI Agent I wrote that AI’s ability to consume and synthesize a lot of disparate information can be used to bring opportunities to you. I gave two examples of when I did it consciously and unconsciously in job searches.

For this to work, the organization needs to pour a lot of its internal data into a training set. They should start with sales conversation transcripts and customer support tickets. If there are any user communities, all of their posts should be put in as well. If their competition has public forums, bring those in. Each interaction in the dataset may be an anecdote, but if you have enough of them, at some point you need to accept that there are clusters worth exploring.

Humans still need vet what the AI finds, so I’d try to use this to generate experiments that can validate (or invalidate) a hypothesis.

One thing you’ll want to know is how big the potential new market is. Since these might not be your customers yet, the experiment might need to a content strategy rather than a product one.

It’s fitting then, that the concept of a Lead Magnet already exists. The normal use is to get a lead to start a sales process with. For an innovation, use lead magnets to research and validate a new market.