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Identification of innovation potential - 6 important triggers for innovation

Innovation potentials are sources of inspiration for new ideas, topics or search fields and thus trigger innovations. However, we do not look at sources in terms of people or methods, but rather at information that is the basis for new ideas. It is information that delivers the potential for innovation and thus provides the impetus for new ideas or search fields.

Key innovation triggers include customer:internal needs, market environment, trends and future projections, new technologies, strengths and competencies, and digitalization.

Innovation potential can also be defined as the ability of a person or organization to innovate, the capacity for innovation. However, the following article focuses on the sources that can be a potential for innovation. As part of the front end of the innovation process, the following are among the most important triggers of innovation

  • client needs
  • market environment
  • trends and future projections
  • new technologies
  • strengths and competencies
  • digitization


Customers are the most important stakeholders in innovation management, because ultimately innovations are developed to meet their requirements. The wishes, problems, tasks and needs of customers, which also include users, decision-makers and customers, are the foundation of innovation. The aim of identifying innovation potential is to identify needs that are

  • very important from the customer's point of view,
  • currently not or only underfulfilled, or
  • which will be very important in the future.

In the course of customer and market research, current and future needs are identified and analysed in order to provide inspiring innovations as answers. The art is to recognize the unconscious needs, which have a high relevance for the customer. There are various effective ways to discover and analyse customer needs, such as customer surveys, customer observations, LEAD user workshops, analysis of complaints, methods from the design thinking box and many, many more.

Market setting

However, it is not only the customers themselves who provide the potential for innovations, but also the opportunities and triggers that can be found in the entire market. The analysis of competitors can also lead to new ideas, but they will probably be less innovative as they are mostly copies. Unless you set yourself the goal of making the best copy as a follower instead of just one Me-Too product.

In addition to the competitors, the adjacent markets and areas are of particular interest from an innovation perspective. The following innovation tasks can be addressed:

  • Which products meet the same customer needs and could be included in the portfolio?
  • Are there upstream or downstream areas or adjacent areas that could also be operated? For example, a construction company could also become the operator of a building. Or a company can integrate supplier tasks and thus extend its value chain.

This methodology expands the service portfolio for existing and new customers and has the advantage of making perfect use of synergies. Either to sell new products to existing customers and therefore through existing distribution channels, or to develop new products for which the technical expertise and resources are already available in-house.

Trends and future projections

Trends and scenarios in the future are, of course, the most important drivers and triggers of innovation. They offer many opportunities and scope for innovation. The analysis of trends and their effects on your company and your own industry identifies many innovation potentials for the future. With this approach, organizations can gain an important advantage and help shape the future instead of being just followers.

For the identification and analysis of trends, various methods are available under the umbrella of future management. Popular methods are classical megatrend analyses, scenario techniques or Delphi studies.

New technologies

New technologies such as new material technologies or new process technologies offer immense potential for new products. Technologies are the basis of innovations because they provide new possibilities for solving problems or fulfilling product functions.

There are many sources for new technologies, including

  • own research,
  • patents,
  • technology databases,
  • publications,
  • suppliers,
  • and direct contact with universities and research institutes.

Patents provide access to and information on a wide range of new technologies. Unfortunately, the availability of the information is relatively time-delayed, but the information content is very high. Patent descriptions are freely available on the Internet, for example via the database espacenet. Furthermore, there are also many professional information services that offer search, pre-selection and analysis of patents.

However, innovation potential is not only provided by patents and utility models from our own branch of industry, but also new technologies from related or completely different branches can offer completely new, innovative approaches to solutions through technology transfer.

In the case of industrial property rights, it is important to observe the protection, as the name implies. Patents cannot simply be adapted and applied. As a solution, you can either skillfully circumvent the patent or pay the inventor a license fee.

All in all, patents are a very important and valuable source of innovation, especially for technology companies, and trigger many new innovations.

Strengths and competencies

The company's current strategic analyses also provide potential for innovations, above all the analysis of strengths. The aim is to find out how current strengths can be exploited in terms of skills and resources. New markets, applications or services are identified which can be served or provided with the current possibilities.

For example, a producer of parquet flooring could ask himself which products could still be manufactured with his own technologies? With this approach, a company finally finds new markets and fields of activity.


Last but not least, digitisation is currently the topic that has the highest potential and triggers many new innovations. The numerous new technologies around the topics Internet of Things, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Big Data and many more offer many opportunities to radically renew the business model. Many start-ups, but also established companies have already shown how digitization can generate new customer experiences, revolutionize processes and transform entire markets with disruptive innovations.

In order to exploit the potential of digitization, it requires know-how about new technologies and a creative power to innovate business models. In addition, there are already numerous experts and methods that can generate many ideas and potential for innovations in a short period of time. For example, hackathons are currently a very popular way to search for digitization innovations.

Conclusion - Identification of innovation potential

As the presentation of the innovation triggers shows, there are many sources, ways and possibilities to find opportunities for innovation. They are infinitely available and thus there are also many opportunities to successfully differentiate from the competition and to build up further pillars for a secure future. To achieve this, companies must focus on a well thought-out design of the front end of the innovation process. The declared goal must be that all potentials and thus sources of innovation are continuously, systematically and methodically screened in order to gain a large lead with new and better solutions.


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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