The Rise of Innovation Intelligence in Competitor and Supplier Research

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The concept of Innovation Intelligence (IIN) is most widely used in reference to internal innovation processes such as in the book Innovative Intelligence: The Art and Practice of Leading Sustainable Innovation in Your Organization (2011). Now we can also look at IIN within the framework of Supply Market Intelligence (SMI) and Competitive Intelligence (CI).

The Rise of Influencer Startups

Either by ushering in their own innovative and disruptive offerings or by challenging larger, more established competitors to redevelop their offerings to stay competitive, startups are exerting tremendous influence on markets of all types. One of the main reasons for this is successful startups are coming into markets with wildly innovative and fresh offerings driven by technologies that allow for complete flexibly. They are not tied down to developing solutions based on restrictive legacy systems. This freedom allows for startups to offer solutions that originate from new and unique viewpoints. Technology that allows for flexibility provides opportunities for startups to glean first hand and in real-time what buyers truly need and desire from products or services, even if they are not yet developed or on the market.

Startup Discovery and Analysis

Because of the rise of these influencers, startup discovery and analysis now plays an important role in SMI and CI research. With this, the reliable ways of researching markets and competitors need to be reexamined to allow for an entirely new approach, one that first and foremost centers on creativity. Consider the following:

Rapid Changes in Markets Will Only Continue to Accelerate – It is challenging to predict trends in a market when information becomes outdated it seems as soon as it has been created. As Nielson’s Matthew Senger writes in his excellent article on IIN and CI: “Understanding innovation performance could provide a more holistic view on how the competitive environment is changing in the quest for growth. But it needs to be fast, granular and always on.”

Anything Standard Is Out the Door – This entirely new approach that is required involves creativity and for the researcher to be as imaginative as possible. Intel futurist Brain David Johnson states in his 2014 talk: “We are living in a really interesting time right now, (but) our imagination is the one skill that is not developed” (TallyFox). Just as imagination skills in general are not developed, so too is the case with imagination-forward research skills. For example, startups powered by transformative technologies simply do not nicely fit within the standard industry coding systems of today (for example NAICS) and terminology is elusive.

A Few Tips on Strategies and Resources

Here are a few tips for creatively researching markets, competitors, and suppliers:

  • Choose resources and establish (flexible!) processes that allow for continuous, ever-changing research delivered on the fly based on real-time data.
  • If commercial databases are used, make sure they have the capability to incorporate news feeds and market developments in real-time, or at least within 24 hours.
  • Monitoring social media is imperative.
  • Embrace the fact that identifying terminology is fluid and ever-changing. Terminology used for one set of unique solutions in a particular market will be quite different than in another – and will likely have morphed and changed from what was used a few months previous.
  • Resources that report, monitor and write about startup funding are key, such as CB Insights and CrunchBase. Ones that cover niche markets like AgFunder, are especially helpful.
  • For more comprehensive resource coverage read: Using Supply Market Intelligence To Enhance Innovation – Update to Resources List .
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