Pulp Innovation Chapter LXXIII: Opportunities & Threats

With three competing scenarios mapped out based on different market trends, Marlowe buckles down with the Accipiter team to identify the opportunities and threats among them. The next important steps towards developing new products depend on the unfolding opportunities identified in this process.

When you have a new lease on life, there’s every reason to get out of bed in the morning.  That Monday morning I found that having a renewed relationship with June, and a favorable outlook at Accipiter, made it far easier to get out of bed in the morning.  At 9:00.  So shoot me, I’ll never be a morning person.

With Matt and Meredith’s help we’d finished the scenario planning for Accipiter’s Aerospace division.  We’d created three scenarios based on the trends the team had identified, and had begun identifying “implications” – that is, what we felt were important emerging product or service opportunities, or potential emerging threats.  These opportunities and threats would be the basis for more customer research and insight work that Meredith would scope and lead, which would form the basis for our idea generation.  Gregg was impressed with the insights we’d generated just in the few scenarios we had developed with his team.

“Sam, these scenarios are really interesting.  The opportunities that they indicate could provide a chance for growth for Accipiter in the aerospace industry.”

“Don’t get too carried away.  That’s just one of three scenarios.  We need to look at the opportunities and threats across all three, and especially focus on what’s common across them, since they are based on different trends and assumptions.  We need to extract what’s common across them, and focus on those things, more than focus on any one scenario and what it indicates.”

He nodded impatiently.  We’d been through the whole exercise, and he knew better than me the importance of examining several different scenarios.  It was inevitable though that a client would latch on to one scenario that aligned with their view of the way the world should turn out.  It was our job not only to provide several competing scenarios but also to keep the team from falling in love with one scenario, and declaring that one scenario the gospel truth.

“Yeah, I know.  But these scenarios have so much to say about our business, and have forced us to think so much more broadly about the environment, and what our competitors are doing, and what the market is going to demand of us.  We need to do these every year.”

I almost laughed out loud.  The fervor of the recently converted never fails to surprise me.  Gregg had been fairly uncertain about starting with scenario planning.  He’d been convinced the way to go was to jump immediately into idea generation, and we had only managed to redirect his thinking by going back to our methodology and impressing upon him the importance of following the methodology.  Now, Gregg was right – his team should be developing scenarios on a yearly basis, but it was a 180 change from just a few weeks ago.  Would he retain his fervor, I wondered, if the market conditions changed?

Susan jumped in, eager to aggregate the insights, rather than rely on just the one scenario Gregg was latched onto.

“The clear themes across the three scenarios seem to be growing dominance in Asia, a falling US dollar, greater regulation in the US and Western Europe and ever increasing fuel prices.  The aerospace industry will have to react to this by focusing more on the needs of the growing Asian markets, and by finding ways to cut both initial costs and long term operating costs for their clients.  Any aerospace supplier that can identify cost savings, especially fuel savings, will be a top supplier in the industry.  And, if the dollar falls in relation to the Asian currencies, we can remain competitive with plants in the US.”

Those facts dealt Gregg some aces and some eights.  The deadman’s hand, with both possibilities and problems.  Possibilities because his US plants would remain competitive based on the falling dollar, but problems due to a larger market share moving to Asia and the need for greater fuel economy on every aerospace supplier.  Gregg would need to find ways to take weight out of his products – primarily landing gear – while retaining safety and reliability.  With new materials Gregg could capture a much larger share of a growing market and make Accipiter a player again in the aerospace market.  But would the aircraft manufacturers and suppliers accept innovation in a very vital aircraft function?  Could Gregg’s team develop some compelling new innovations in landing gear that were acceptable to the aircraft manufacturers?

The scenarios all indicated that there were unfolding opportunities in these areas.  We’d need to work with the aircraft suppliers and manufacturers to understand their willingness to change, and understand the needs and expectations of the clients in order to ensure these needs were important and relevant, and that they could be solved.

Our next step was to gain more customer insight about the needs we’d identified.

By Jeffrey Phillips

About the author:


Jeffrey Phillips is VP Marketing and a lead consultant for OVO Innovation. Jeffrey has led innovation projects for Fortune 5000 firms, academic institutions and not-for=profits based on OVO Innovation’s Innovate on Purpose™ methodology. The Innovate on Purpose methodology encourages organizations to consider innovation as a sustainable, repeatable business process, rather than a discrete project. Jeffrey is the author of “Make Us More Innovative,” and blogs about innovation at Innovate On Purpose. He is a sought after speaker and has presented to corporations, innovation oriented conferences, and at a number of universities.

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