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Sources for new ideas

Managers can try to search actively for new ideas by looking for inspiration from the following sources.

External sources: customers; lead-users (user solutions); patents/inventions; competitors; suppliers; acquisitions; trade fairs and conventions; published information; trade magazines; outside consultants; channel members; universities; government; law/regulations.

Internal sources: internal R&D; employees; engineering/IT; shelved ideas; complaints systems; customer service; sales force.


Definition: Lead-users

Here are four tips for success in acquiring and generating new ideas:

  1. Identify an important market and the company's goals for innovation in this market.
  2. Find the trends. Talk to people who lead that trend in terms of experience and intensity of need.
  3. Consult customers, suppliers, and their customers and suppliers, to find someone who knows even more about the area or the 'problem'.
  4. Hold a workshop with leading figures and your own personnel. Start by working in smaller groups and then all together in order to develop a product concept that involves a number of possible products.

Trade fairs and conventions

The Ideation Stimulator Checklist (Small, 1953; 1981; in Crawford & Di Benedetto, 2008) is a concrete example of a systematic approach to developing new ideas (although not food-specific). It provides a list of considerations that are classified according to different aspects of the product:

Table 2. Ideation Stimulator Checklist.

Dimensionality Larger, smaller, longer, shorter, thicker, thinner, deeper, shallow, stand vertically, place horizontally, make slanted or parallel, stratify, invert (reverse), crosswise
Quantity More, less, change proportions, fractionate, join something, add something to it, combine with something else, complete
Order Arrangement, precedence, beginning, assembly/disassembly, focus
Time Faster, slower, longer, shorter, chronological, perpetuated, synchronized, anticipated, renewed, recurrent, alternated
Cause/effect Stimulated, energized, strengthened, louder, softer, altered, destroyed, influenced, counteracted
Character Stronger, weaker, altered, converted, substituted, interchanged, stabilized, reversed, resilient, uniformity, cheaper, more expensive, add colour, change colour
Form Animated, stilled, speeded, slowed, directed, deviated, attracted, repelled, admitted, barred, lifted, lowered, rotated, oscillated, agitated
State/condition Hotter, colder, harden, soften, open or closed, preformed, disposable, incorporated, parted, solidified, liquefied, vaporized, pulverized, abraded, lubricated, wetter, drier, insulated, effervesced, coagulated, elasticized, resistant, lighter, heavier
Adoption to new market

Men, women, children, old, handicapped, foreign