How Can We Make the Case for Innovating in the Whitespace?

March 9, 2018

In a recent Q&A email, a member of the InnoLead community asked the following question:

“How can we make the case for innovating in the whitespace, not just building things related to existing products?”

Below are two of our most interesting answers from those who responded anonymously to the question.

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Use Clear Criteria

Someone from the consulting industry says, “It starts with having a clearly articulated innovation strategy and, in particular, an objective around having a balanced portfolio (i.e. Core, adjacent and transformational).

At this respondent’s company, the team uses Rita McGrath’s model: “Once you have defined your targets for each area and the criteria you can plot each new opportunity/investment request against it to track and investment decisions.”

Jumping Over Hurdles

A respondent from the insurance industry noted the challenges that come with the whitespace:

“Whitespace innovation is hard because so much of insurance is about avoiding things going wrong  [and] hoping the baddest events won’t happen, and that payouts for claims won’t exceed reserves in the model. People are risk averse, whether they admit it or not…”

“People are trained to look for data and patterns, but in the whitespace there is no real data yet. The classic pattern is to analyze, research, plan, and then only launch when you are pretty much sure you’ve passed all the hurdles.”

To avoid this traditional, time-consuming process, the respondent advises employees to move forward with three steps:

“In true whitespace innovation you have to experiment your way forward:

  • Try small things and see what happens,
  • Try some new research, look for novel data sources,
  • Run real world tests.”
The respondent concludes with, “Essentially you have to color in the whitespace piece by piece.”