Identifying an opportunity means understanding how a market segment is unfulfilled. It means understanding who has a need and how to address it so that you add more value to their lives than potential competitors.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between seeing a problem and solving it. Problems can be solved in many different ways and it requires a deep understanding of user needs to do it well. A good design process will help you design for and test against your assumptions so that you can better understand your opportunity quickly.

There are four main categories of opportunity or “innovation” that most product solutions fall under.

Research Innovation

Focuses on field specific research and development to create a new technology. These types of solutions are often then licensed off and developed further for commercialization.

Incremental Innovation

Focuses on making minor improvements to existing solutions in existing markets. This type of innovation helps to sustain businesses by increasing value with relatively low financial risk.

Whitespace Innovation

Focuses on repurposing existing solutions for underserved markets. These types of solutions come with some risk in successfully identifying the needs and desires of the new markets.

Disruptive Innovation

Focuses on bringing a brand new solution to an existing market to better meet the market needs. These types of innovations often come from start ups which are trying to leap frog existing companies. They are very risky, but stand to earn significant financial reward.