“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don't know we don't know.”
Donald Rumsfeld may have been speaking about the Iraq war, but he also aptly describes the attitude of many innovation teams. One of the biggest sources of consternation we’ve found for teams charged with finding white space opportunities is not knowing when they know enough to start innovating. There is a tendency to default to conducting extensive upfront quantitative research, including segmentation mapping, needs assessments, habits and practices studies, etc. before trying to create new ideas. And while it’s sort of clichéd, there’s a lot of truth to the term, “paralysis by analysis.” When it comes to innovation, our approach to research is don’t search for answers; look for inspiration. Because you’re highly unlikely to identify breakthrough opportunities by researching the current state—the key is to find insights that can help stimulate breakthrough thinking.