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How to use search fields in innovation management

If you are looking for a new strategy, you will find it quicker. A clear picture: you know that in a clearly marked piece of forest truffles can be found. If you drive your truffle pig there to find you will also find a truffle.


But how do you find the marked piece of forest, where you know there are truffles? Very simple: by using search fields in innovation management. In this article, we will show you how this works.

No innovation without market success

But first of all, you have to be very precise in the derivation of search fields. The higher the precision, the faster you get to a better result. Therefore, it is also important that the terms are defined cleanly. Innovation is an invention, or an invention, which has succeeded in the market. Short:


Innovation = Invention + Market success


Ingredients for the Roadmap

Back to the question how to derive search fields in innovation management. As a basis for your search field you need some ingredients like a trend universe that you have linked to the time beam. In addition, you have to deal with the innovation of your company.

Defining an innovation search area download

This is easy: Analyze when your company has launched what successful innovations on the market. The best way to do this is to use a diagram that is used to plot the time in the X axis and the various product groups or markets in the Y axis. These three ingredients sum up the roadmap.

Put on a simple formula: The roadmap is to deal with the past and the future of a company and give your to-dos for the present. If you have a roadmap, you are no longer very far from your designated piece of forest - pardon search field.

Search fields are the result of a roadmap and show me the need for action in innovation management shortly to medium term.


This sounds very concrete. With a search field, you can tell your research and development department where to look for something new. Or you can give a round of experts the task in which exactly defined area you should invent something. The latter method is known as a lead-user method. This method requires a search field. So we stay with the search field and we take the Vorarlberg textile manufacturer Wolford AG as an example:

Seamless stockings

Wolford's biggest innovation in ladies' stockings was 20 years back in 2014. In 1994, the company launched the "Fatal Tights", the world's first ladies' tights, with only one seam. For those who do not wear ladies' tights: seams are undesirable because they are pushed through the outerwear and visible - which is not desired.

To put it simply, Wolford succeeded in innovation: the company knitted a textile hose and cut it up into a small piece into two parts. This results in two tubes connected at the upper end, which are intended for the legs. The waistband of the pantyhose was added by Wolford by seam.

As far as the relevant part of the innovation past. Wolford found out from the trend universe linked to the timeline that a new gluing process, which is also suitable for stockings, is available.

The search field in the case of Wolford is now almost obvious. "We're looking for a new pantyhose that does not need any seams, and the rubber band is applied using a gluing process."

With such a clearly defined search field, the management had only to go to their own research and development department and say: "Do it." The result of this process was the Pure 50 Tights pantyhose, for which Wolford also got awarded the Vorarlberg Innovation Award.

A search field is therefore an order formulated in a sentence for research and development. Or a clearly defined piece of forest where you can leave your truffle pig off the leash. To this qualitative definition there are, however, additional quantitative requirements. Essentially, the following are:

  • When will I launch the new development on the market? Trade fairs are a popular time to draw attention to new developments.
  • What do I want to develop again? Is it a product, a process or do I want to go into a new market new? A hypothetical example of a market innovation would be if Wolford wants to market the market for men 's stockings. An example of a process innovation would be if Volkswagen wants to develop a rear axle module, which can be installed not only in the golf, but also in other types such as the Touran, or corresponding models of the brands Skoda and Seat.
  • What is the degree of innovation? How new a product is can be measured on a scale from 1 to 10. The degree of innovation is important in order to be able to estimate how long it takes for customers to actually buy a product. As a rule, the higher this degree, the longer is the time span. Here, the innovation history of a company can provide valuable information: What was the degree of innovation in previous new developments? How expensive were the costs, up to the market launch? How long did it take for the new product to generate significant sales?
  • Do I want to open up a new market or offer a new technology? This is a decision-making question. Both as well as is not permissible, because this has nothing to do with strategic innovation management. If you define both components as variables, then it is only about free brainstorming. You can do this immediately with any person or group. Depending on the creativity of the members of this group, you will have a wealth of ideas. And, no one is pursued or even realized. This shows the experience.

Quantity damages the quality

This free brainstorming - that is, to have as many ideas as possible - was still a standard in innovation management until recently. Similar to gold diggers, the companies were looking for nuggets, meaning ideas that are rich in ideas. And like the gold diggers, a lot of sand flowed through their fingers and sieves until a nugget had been found.

One of the largest consumer goods manufacturers, for example, called on its nearly 55,000 employees to supply two or three ideas per year. 400 employees alone were involved in collecting, evaluating, screening, and giving feedback to the employees. An even greater effort to develop products is hardly conceivable.

Steve Jobs and James Dyson are exceptional releases

The iPod is the innovation that has made Apple the way to today's greatness. Steve Jobs did not collect and evaluate the ideas of his employees, nor did he define a search field. When Jon Rubinstein, one of Jobs employees, presented a 1.8-inch hard drive with the idea of a music player, the Apple founder simply said, "Go for it." The iPod, in its first version with a 5 gigabyte hard drive Board, was a radical breakthrough innovation. By definition, this was radical, because the device changed the business model of an entire industry. Jobs probably trusted his instinct, because this strategy can hardly be tackled. Why? Because of the process, the business model and the market entered from his own point of view completely new territory:

  • Apple was not yet active on the music market
  • Apple sold tracks individually. To date, music lovers have only been able to buy entire albums, or download some songs from Napster and Kazaa illegally
  • The process of music distribution was also new for Apple. The company developed the iTunes software.
The development of the much-respected design of the hard- and software was for Apple however a well-known field. To develop both together was one of the Group's strengths. The development of the technical device with the much noticed scroll wheel on the side was for Apple so to speak "invention as usual".

Founders can tinker

This is an extremely high risk for the company. If Steve Jobs had not been the founder of Apple, he would not have been able to allow such an approach. Just like James Dyson did not. The British designer, inventor and entrepreneur developed precisely 5,127 prototypes of his bagless vacuum cleaner within five years. Once honestly, you would allow your research department to develop such a high number of prototypes, or at the latest at 5,126. Prototype released? Just. That's why you need to be a strategic business. As far as possible exactly defined and formulated search fields help you.

Conclusion: Use search fields in innovation management

More than ever, the economy is determined by good ideas. Ideas, which have to create it to the market maturity and the enterprise also sales and profit. In the search for innovations, you should take a strategic approach. Although you can send a horde of truffle pigs into different forests and will also find some truffles. However, it is more economical to have a small, clearly defined area searched for. An area that also promises valuable finds. It could also be called a precisely defined search field.

Defining an innovation search area download


Daniel Zapfl

With his comprehensive experience in holistic innovation management, Daniel brings valuable insights and best practices from various industries to your innovation project. He boldly and disruptively challenges conventional ways of thinking. As a TRIZ-certified sparring partner, Daniel will support you with creative solution-finding in a reliable and structured manner. More critical than the most discerning customer, he always has an eye on the big picture.

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