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September 10, 2008


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I cannot agree. And frankly, I am puzzled by the vehemence of your dogma on this issue.

First of all, it is true that people use the term "white space" to mean many different things. So what? The same is true for so many other terms. Let's not get hung up on the semantics.

More importantly, why do you feel so strongly that innovation efforts need to focus on only one type of innovation. That seems like a very narrow minded perspective.

Finally, these complementary innovations are less interesting precisely because they are right next to you. Do you honestly believe that your competitors are going to be shocked by these moves? They see what is next to you as well as you do. "White space" innovations are interesting because they exist in what is today the twilight zone but will tomorrow be a mainstream market. Cars were not a complementary innovation relative to horse-drawn carriages. They were a sea change. If you focused on making new kinds of saddles, cushions for the carriage and so on, your prize was bankruptcy. You missed the boat. Because as the twilight zone becomes reality, what was reality becomes twilight zone. I bet there are still a few folks making horse-drawn carriages today. How excited are you by that business?


Adam, thanks for your comments and for putting the debate on the table. I appreciate your insights and perspectives. Here's where I am coming from.

I have yet to see even one growth initiative succeed that came under the banner "white space opportunity." My observation is that decision makers like what they see, but ultimately pass because it is too far flung. They feel more comfortable at the margin. I've experienced this first hand, on both sides of the table.

"At the margin" or fringe does not mean the innovation is incremental. Not at all! The innovation tools available today can produce far reaching ideas right within your core competency.

Also, my view is that chasing white space opportunities is not innovation. It's *chasing* innovation. It is searching for someone else's innovation. That usually comes at a high price. I'd rather invent it than have to buy it.

If you define white space as seeking new segments and markets, that is not innovation either. It's marketing. Semantics, you are right.

I point out the many definitions of white space to suggest that it's become overused, perhaps cliche. White space is a catch all. We might be better served to define these target areas another way.

By the way, regarding horse drawn carriages...I bet there are more of them built today than there were when cars first came out. Don't know that to be a fact...just a guess.

I note from your LinkedIn profile that we have a lot in common. Let's keep exploring our differences!

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