Drucker’s “Seven Sources for Innovative Opportunity”

Apparently some authors get really annoyed if you ask them where they get their ideas. A similar question hovers over many discussions of entrepreneurship. Instead of causing offence it often leads towards inspirational quotes from tycoons, or talk of the “entrepreneurial personality”, as if tinkering with your own character traits is the route to success.

What I like about Peter Drucker’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship is that it takes an analytical look at entrepreneurship. His list of seven “Sources for Innovative Opportunity” should make it easier to search out opportunities, or at least help you avoid missing them when they present themselves. They are:

  1. The Unexpected (unexpected failure/outside event)
  2. Incongruities: the difference between reality as it actually is and reality as it is assumed to be or as it “ought to be”
  3. Process Need: Successful innovation based on process needs requires:
    • A self-contained process
    • One “weak” or “missing” link
    • A clear definition of the objective
    • That the specifications for the solution can be defined clearly
    • Widespread realization that “there ought to be a better way”
  4. Industry and Market Structures: as well as an opportunity, change here can be a threat to existing players
  5. Demographics (population change)
  6. Changes in Perception: can’t be quantified, and timing is of the essence, so start small
  7. New Knowledge (scientific and non-scientific)
  8. Drucker helpfully ranks the above in order of reliability and predictability, so profiting from “the unexpected” typically has a greater chance of success than building an enterprise on new knowledge.

    You have to read the book to put flesh on the bones. It was written years ago so the examples aren’t bang up to date, but the book is published in a “Classic” series and that’s what it is.

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