A World of Opportunity



  1. The three main questions are
    1. What useful knowledge (technology) is under-used or not used at all (market)?
    2. What useful knowledge is about to be created?
    3. What useful knowledge might I create?

    Note that the knowledge and its use are a single integrated judgement.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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 form.

    If you intend to carry all these elements in your head, you are not seriously searching for new markets for new technology.

  6. 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 narrower.

  7. 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.
  8. For each different idea, in each different category, locate 10 information elements (expressions of the idea) that satisfy the following Rules of Diversity.
    1. no element contains a cross reference to any other element
    2. no element is from the same source
    3. no element is attributed to the same person
    4. no element is attributed to the same organization
    5. no element is from same year
    6. at least one element is a direct personal conversation
    7. at least one element is from scholarly refereed publication
    8. each element is from a different classification across the level of specialization.

    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 fashion.

    With 10 different ideas in 2 categories, the above rules can be satisfied with 200 information elements. You would normally have more.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 set.

    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.


  11. 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 existing players.

    Again, information technologies can be effective in generating this data if they are used very carefully.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.
  14. 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 literature.

    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 breakthroughs)
    Construct or access full historical review of both the technology and the market (minimum 50 years).

  15. 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.
    1. Can I imagine a research strategy or series of experiments to create this knowledge?
    2. Can I find (research) such a research strategy?
    3. Do I know someone who has the capability to design such a strategy?
    4. Do I notice that I am at a University, a knowledge factory?
    5. Can I acquire the resources to do the research? Can I re-design the research to do it more cheaply.
  16. 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.


  17. 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 vacant fields.

    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 it, aggressively.

    Only when you have found an entire array of vacant fields will you be able to find the one worthy of your potential.


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