- The three main questions are
- What useful knowledge (technology) is under-used or not used at all
- What useful knowledge is about to be created?
- What useful knowledge might I create?
Note that the knowledge and its use are a single integrated judgement.
- Search for useful knowledge in your interest or passion and recognize that
if your interest starts in the technology, it will naturally evolve to include
the usefulness (markets) of the technology as you learn more about the markets.
Or if your interest starts in the marketplace, it will naturally evolve to
include the technology as you learn more about it.
How could you be interested in something separate from its usefulness or
interested in the usefulness of something separate from how it works?
If this evolution of interest does not occur you might wish to reconsider
the depth of your starting interest.
- You search for knowledge and usefulness, technology and markets, in parallel,
unless you intend to live to a biologically improbable age.
Much of the world's information can be classified into two main categories:
technology or markets. You need to search within both of these categories.
Remember, however, that a large part of our fund of information is organized
according to classifications that are irrelevant, obsolete, inconsistent,
specious or intellectually indefensible.
Note that the term information is used to designate organized data and
the term knowledge designates the understanding of information.
- As you search through the fund of information, you are looking for discrete
elements of information that are related to your interest. If you intend to
be a lucky person you proceed in the straight line until you trip over something
vaguely interesting. If you want to maximize your odds of finding treasure,
the following search strategy is suggested.
- Each element of discrete information is logged and tagged according to its
citation source, (person, publication and date) and its main category (technology
or market). You should also tag the element according to any number of sub-classifications,
but note that you will be disregarding the sub-classifications in some of
the evaluation procedure suggested below.
The library you are building up almost certainly needs a computer management
system and some electronic storage. And its analysis will usually require
computer manipulation. But note that some vital information is in non-digital
If you intend to carry all these elements in your head, you are not seriously
searching for new markets for new technology.
- The goal of your search is to assemble a library of information elements
that has both breadth and diversity. You are setting your nets widely and
you are using nets of different dimension.
You can start your search from wherever you are at present, or where your
intuition tells you to start or where you think most of your personal knowledge
is. This is your point of origin; you identify the equivalent point of origin
in each of the main categories: (technology or markets).
Decide at what level of specialization or specificity your point of origin
is for each category. In other words, you want to identify a set of information
which has the some basic breadth of applicability. There are a number of
classification systems to do so:library taxonomies, journal hierarchies,
professional or university designations, industrial categories and the classifications
of statistical agencies.
For example, in the technology category aeronautical engineering is a level
of specialization, aircraft engine design is a narrower specialization,
aircraft engine fatigue is an even narrower specialization.
In the market category, retail merchandising is a level of specialization,
grocery merchandising is a narrower specialization and variety stores even
- For each category, within the same level of specialization or breadth as
the point of origin, identify ten different ideas. Different means, at a minimum,
that they do not contain cross references to each other.
- For each different idea, in each different category, locate 10 information
elements (expressions of the idea) that satisfy the following Rules of Diversity.
- no element contains a cross reference to any other element
- no element is from the same source
- no element is attributed to the same person
- no element is attributed to the same organization
- no element is from same year
- at least one element is a direct personal conversation
- at least one element is from scholarly refereed publication
- each element is from a different classification across the level of
There are a variety of such classifications and you can create your own.
For example, if your idea concerned automobile design or the auto industry
you could look to such classifications as design, assembly, parts, manufacturing,
marketing, auto financing, etc.
It is strongly recommended that this process switches back and forth between
the two categories, bringing them to conclusion in an approximately parallel
With 10 different ideas in 2 categories, the above rules can be satisfied
with 200 information elements. You would normally have more.
- For every 10 elements identified above, locate one element in the level
of specialization above that (broader) already used and one in the level of
specialization below it (narrower), such that each new element satisfies the
Rules of Diversity.
This constitutes the First Search Set.
Optional: For an especially aggressive search, you may repeat the
above procedure with respect to these new elements; that is, for every 10
new elements identified in Step 9 locate one element in the level both above
and below the ones already used. (If there are less than 10, locate at least
one in the level above and below). This can be done until all the levels
of specialization are included.
- Take all the elements in the First Search Set and combine and recombine
them in as many ways as practical. There are several mathematical principles
that can help prevent overlooked possibilities, depending on the size of the
Each configuration of elements is examined to determine whether it might
lead to a vacant field of commercial potential, where technology could go
and where the market would go. Note that the above procedure most effectively
answers Question 1 (a) above: What useful knowledge is under-used or not
used at all. Questions 1 (b) and (c) are considered below.
See: CREATING TECHNOLOGY: FIRST PRINCIPLES and
- Measure the vacant field quantitatively and rigorously. And note that vacancy
is a relative measure, little activity in one area compared to much more activity
in other areas. So you have to measure activity in both the field you hope
is vacant and in the surrounding fields. At a minimum you would measure: number
of participants, products, new entrants, new product introductions, new stock
offerings, new investments and reported R&D. And you would look at this
data over time (minimum 10 years) and include revenues and profits of the
Again, information technologies can be effective in generating this data
if they are used very carefully.
- Having identified a vacant field where existing knowledge is under-used
or not used at all, it is necessary to determine why it is vacant. Where is
the error of judgement on the part of others?
Because you can specify a very precise question, information search technologies
are effective at identifying the prevalence of a mistaken idea or area of
ignorance and determining who is mistaken and why. But note that the Internet
itself is not representative of economic and scientific activity.
- If no worthwhile possibilities were identified from your First Search Set,
reconstitute the set. Add new ideas at the point of origin (There are always
more ideas; just read until you find them). And it is often effective to adopt
a new classification system for the levels of specialization and the categories
within any particular level of specialization. In other words, you look at
your existing information in different ways.
- In order to determine where useful knowledge may be about to be created,
Question 1 (b), identify vacant fields from your Search Set in which the market
is strongly willing but the technology itself is absent. Of course, it would
be very useful to know if the technology can be expected in the reasonably
near future. And there are a variety of ways to do so.
Monitor the momentum of the relevant research, pure and applied in the
Monitor "chat", whether electronic or at trade shows.
Talk to experts.
Look for breakthrough signs
Monitor an increase in cross disciplinary work and references (often precedes
Construct or access full historical review of both the technology and
the market (minimum 50 years).
- In order to determine whether you could create useful knowledge yourself,
Question 1(c), identity vacant fields from your Search Set where technology
appears absent and does not seem about to occur in the reasonably near future.
Then ask the following questions with respect to each such field.
- Can I imagine a research strategy or series of experiments to create
- Can I find (research) such a research strategy?
- Do I know someone who has the capability to design such a strategy?
- Do I notice that I am at a University, a knowledge factory?
- Can I acquire the resources to do the research? Can I re-design the
research to do it more cheaply.
- The above procedures represent only the core functions of a model to forecast
technological opportunities. You can and should elaborate and customize these
procedures to address your particular goals. However, if these modifications
limit the size or diversity of the search set, then the fundamental logic
of the methodology has been violated.
See: FORECASTING TECHNOLOGY: FIRST PRINCIPLES
and CREATING TECHNOLOGY: FIRST PRINCIPLES .
- The procedures recommended above require great care and considerable time.
There is a temptation to omit steps and to stop with one or two plausibly
Warning! warning! Danger, danger! You are about to violate one of the most
basic laws of economics: the cost of any activity is the benefit foregone
in its next best alternative. If you have not generated many alternatives
of good quality you cannot choose which one is "best"; you are
going into the future blind, not knowing the cost of your own actions. If
the Information Age means anything, it means the intensive use of information.
So you must decide whether you are going to talk about information or use
Only when you have found an entire array of vacant fields will you be able
to find the one worthy of your potential.
Next Section: TECHNOLOGY MARKETS FORECASTING
MODEL: SELECTED SAMPLES
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