- Unexpected results. If you find a guy who succeeds at something even though he is nothing like his competition, then figure out why.
- Incongruity: Find the difference between what reality is – and what it ought to be. Uber started out by questioning whether hailing a cab (the reality) was the way it should be.
- Process need: Whether the process involves organizing your day, converting PDF to word documents, or notifying your coworkers of important updates, there is always a way to do things better.
- Changes in industry or market structure: Online media has changed the way the news is being consumed. It has changed the way information, in general, is being consumed. That could be a prompt for ideas. Look for other industry changes, and what they could mean for the future.
- Demographics: The demographic profile of the location you’re living in is constantly in a state of change. What changes do you anticipate over the next few years, and how can you be a pioneer in exploiting those changes?
- Changes in perception, mood, and meaning: Culture gives rise to technology. Technology, in turn, changes culture. We are in an infinite loop of cause and effect. Things that used to be taboo in the past are today common place. Anticipate how you can be part of the next change of perception. Air bnb would have been considered a psychopathic idea not very long ago. Today, there are few people who haven’t used the service in some way. What is strange and pathological today will be embraced and normal tomorrow.
- New knowledge, both scientific and nonscientific: It could be some breakthrough in the nutrition industry, or someone might have discovered something uncanny about human psychology or biology. We are exposed to new breakthroughs on a constant basis. It wouldn’t be imprudent to build a business on that basis.
To innovate, you need to profess your ignorance and then ask questions and listen.