Case Study: How to Identify a Market Niche

In 1998, I was introduced to the R&D Vice President of a large, American car manufacturer. During the meeting I explained that GTI has a predictive capability – it can help to uncover future needs and a market niche. The VP responded:

“Show us. We are working on car airbags. We have an airbag for a car driver and a passenger. There is also a prototype of side airbags. Another producer is proposing an airbag protecting against broken glass. What will be the future of this segment?”

The analysis lasted 2 months and this article is a story about the proceedings and what the outcome was:

Stage 1 – Inquiry

I gathered all data to thoroughly understand the challenge. It is not only about understanding how products and services work but how they solve problems of the customer (how they deliver value).

 Stage 2 – Analysis

At this stage, the data was used to build a GTI Diagram that helped later to discover niches. This diagram consists of:

  1. What goals the customer is trying to achieve
  2. What process the customer is going through to achieve his/her goal
  3. What problems he/she is facing on the way to achieving a goal
  4. How our solution solves problems of the customer
  5. How other/competitive solutions solve problems of the customer

 

Stage 3. “Identification of Strategic Niches (the “Relevant” Problems)”.

Once the model was created (sometimes called the Value Map) I was ready to apply GTI techniques and create a solution in the next stages.

The diagram is simplified but still, it contains at least 24 opportunity areas.

Figure 1 – Relevent Diagram

 

To identify niches, we use a very powerful GTI technique called the Six Strategies to Identify Strategic Opportunities. Figure 2 presents one of those strategies – move the Value Event closer to a customer’s goal. This technique helps to reformulate a customer problem that once solved can lead to a market shift. In the case of the car safety systems, instead of trying to prevent from a death or injury during an accident, we are asking how to identify objects so we can avoid accident

Figure 2 – Strategy 1: Move the Value Event

 

Stage 4. Creation of Growth Platforms.

It was time to create the concept solution for chosen “relevant” problems. GTI provides efficient processes and an entire arsenal of techniques and tools (such as Situational Analysis Technique, Problem-Solution Templates, Algorithm for Conflict Elimination, etc.) used for this purpose.

The identification and fulfillment of a Strategic Niche usually mean a significant step towards product/service development and creation of a new system that will be subject to further evolution, generating even more future solutions. For this reason, the newly created system is called a “Growth Platform”.

The problem of preventing accidents leads to the concept of car sensors systems (Figure 3.) that constantly monitor the vehicle’s environment. Technologies that can solve the problem were available even in the ’80 – for example, radar.

Figure 3 – Active Safety System

 

Stage 5. Creating a Strategic Innovation Portfolio.

During this final phase, I created a portfolio of Strategic Innovations by further developing a concept created in Stage 4.  We can see solutions just by looking at the GTI Diagram and negative scenarios that can happen to a customer i.e. backing out and hitting another car, falling asleep behind the wheel, not seeing a car in the mirror.

Figure 4 – Innovation Portfolio

 

In the discussed case we can develop many particular applications of active safety ideas, such as cruise control, automatic brakes activation, Stop&Go, Side Crash, Park Aid, Lane change and others presented in Figure 4. This portfolio of products not only could help to gain but also sustain an advantage by simply deploying solutions to the market in sequence.

Summary

Some readers may point out that the whole idea of active safety and all mentioned solutions are commonly known and used in modern cars. In 1998 the situation was completely different though. This means that the evolution which took place in real life confirmed the validity of GTI logic and power of its tools by precisely identifying the future development of the automotive industry. The aforementioned Vice President was really shocked as these concepts were being developed in secret and here they were presented by a person with no experience in the automotive industry whatsoever.  The surprise was so enormous that I got a job offer.

As you can see, the predictive potential of GTI (General Theory of Innovation) enables EVERY company to increase the opportunities for growth which gives a decisive advantage over competitors that do not employ similar models.

If you have any questions or need help, do not hesitate to contact me.

Greg Yezersky is the creator of the General Theory of Innovation (GTI) . Greg has been in the business of innovation since 1983 providing consulting services for many Fortune 500 companies. He has taught GTI and its applications globally in both commercial and academic settings. Mr. Yezersky is also a renowned TRIZ expert (certified in 1988 by Genrich Altshuller, the creator of TRIZ) with more than 25 years of experience. He has also created and led the Institute of Professional Innovators.

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