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From opportunity spaces to search fields - a definition

In innovation management one speaks of search fields when it comes to the strategic planning of innovations. With the help of these search fields, you can clearly formulate your development mandate for new products, processes, services, business models or business areas. However, there is a higher level of abstraction in innovation strategy: namely the so-called opportunity spaces. In this article you can read what search fields and opportunity spaces are and how they are connected. 

 With the help of trends, potential innovation fields, so-called opportunity spaces, can be defined.

"80 percent of all innovations fail because they don't meet the demands of the market." This is the result of a study according to Cooper. It's frightening to imagine the amount of wasted resources here. To counteract this high error rate in new development, strategic search fields are used.

What are strategic search fields?

Strategic search fields 

    • represent future subject areas in which one would like to innovate and search for possible innovation potential.
    • channel the idea generation process and ensure that all innovation activities are in line with or support the corporate strategy.
    • should be precise, so that the idea generation process can be aligned in a concrete way.
  • should also be defined broadly enough to allow the discovery of new ideas.
  • are the link between the innovation strategy and the innovation development and are therefore an assignment for the development department. 

What are opportunity spaces?

Opportunity Spaces are strategic fields of innovation that offer room for innovation as well as for growth and value enhancement. It is defined (or limited) by what a company is, what it knows, what it can do and what it wants to do. Opportunity Spaces are strongly defined by the outside world and especially by the unmet needs, trends and opportunities they offer. Influences from the company itself arise through the strategy, the market environment and the company's own competencies. Within your Opportunity Spaces you can develop a wealth of potential risk-minimized ideas.

How do opportunity spaces differ from strategic search fields?

The biggest difference between opportunity spaces and strategic search fields is the level of detail. While opportunity spaces deal with topics, strategic search fields are already concrete development assignments.


car sharing Daimler


How do you go from trends to opportunity spaces and then define a search field? Daimler's car sharing model as a practical example

In September 2007, the German automotive group Daimler was looking at long-term trends for car manufacturers and wanted to know what new areas of business innovation could result from them. 

The trends prevailing at that time were as follows:

  • Return of private motor vehicle ownership: Fewer and fewer car owners were registered in urban areas.
  • Return of driving licence holders: In urban areas, there was a clear tendency for the number of new drivers to decrease.
  • Micromobility: People claim to be flexible in their choice of means of transport (scooter, e-scooter, bicycle, public transport, car etc.).
  • Rising cost of living: due to constantly rising life-support costs, the private ownership of vehicles is becoming less important.

As a result of these trends, Daimler very quickly created an Opportunity Space with the clear message "Rent instead of Buy".

After internal analyses to determine whether car rental concepts would be a potential mass market or whether the rental of vehicles could be automated, it quickly became clear that a new search field existed for Daimler:

"We are looking for a new way to offer our vehicles for short-term rentals."


"We were all enthusiastic about the idea of being able to offer city dwellers for the first time a product that would allow them the flexibility and availability of their own car - without having to own a car of their own".

Robert Henrich, inventor of Car2Go and Managing Director of Daimler Mobility Services GmbH.

Conclusion: with Trends and Opportunity Spaces to search fields

Both in corporate management and in innovation management, it is essential to keep abreast of the pulsating trends in the industry. With the help of trends, potential fields of innovation, so-called opportunity spaces, can be defined in which one expects both growth and value enhancement for one's company. These Opportunity Spaces are influenced above all by external factors such as unmet needs. Within these opportunity spaces, the goal is then to define concrete development orders - so-called strategic search fields. 


Jannik Böckenholt

As an expert for New Business Development, Jannik is your reliable companion for new commercial ventures. When it comes to the restructuring of innovation processes or the application of innovation methods, the learned project manager guides you to your objective step by step, while making sure there is fun along the way with his inspiring storytelling in the workshops he moderates.

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