What are you doing to prepare for the next five years? Many of the clients and organizations I work with are concerned about finding the next big thing in their industry —before their competitors do.

Where should one go to discover the creative insights needed?

After meticulously analyzing 120 cases, Gary A. Klein, PhD, a psychologist and expert on decision-making, identified five paths that lead people to discover insights. He shares these five paths in his recent book Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights (Public Affairs, First Trade Paper Edition, 2013).

  1. Connections
  2. Coincidences
  3. Curiosities
  4. Contradictions
  5. Creative desperation

Adopting these mindsets allows you to spot trends by making connections and spotting patterns. You’ll become more curious about irregularities and notice potentially significant coincidences. You’ll explore contradictions or anomalies. In some cases, you may become desperate enough to try anything that could work.

7 Places to Find Creative Insights

Several Fortune 500 companies were founded on a single insight into what customers want:

  • Starbucks brought a little bit of Italy to coffee shops.
  • Home Depot gave do-it-yourselfers access to professional supplies.
  • The Body Shop was built on the notion that beauty-product consumers care about humane animal-testing practices.
  • FedEx was started because overnight delivery was a brilliant insight.

A November 2014 Harvard Business Review article (“Where to Look for Insight”) defines insight as “an imaginative understanding of an internal or external opportunity that can be tapped to improve efficiency, generate revenue, or boost engagement. Insights can be about stakeholder needs, market dynamics, or even how your company works.”

Most of us can adopt a mindset that facilitates creativity and insights. The authors of the HBR article urge readers to explore seven key areas:

  1. Anomalies: Examine deviations from the norm. Do you see unexpectedly high or low revenue or share in a market or segment? Surprise performance from a business process or a company unit?
  1. Confluence: Find macro trend intersections. What key economic, behavioral, technological or demographic trends do you see? How are they combining to create opportunities?
  1. Frustrations: Pinpoint deficiencies in the system. Where are customer pain points for your products, services or solutions? Which organizational processes or practices annoy you and your colleagues?
  1. Orthodoxies: Question conventional beliefs. Are there assumptions or beliefs in your industry that go unexamined? Toxic behaviors or procedures at your company that go unchallenged?
  1. Extremities: Exploit deviance. What can you learn from the behaviors and needs of your leading-edge or laggard customers, employees or suppliers?
  1. Voyages: Learn from immersion elsewhere. How are your stakeholders’ needs influenced by their sociocultural context?
  1. Analogies: Borrow from other industries or organizations. What successful innovations do you see applied in other disciplines? Can you adapt them for your own use?

Where do you go to stimulate fresh ideas that might lead to creative insights? I’d love to hear your experiences.