How to Identify Trends and Patterns for Breakthrough Innovation

Connecting the Dots

How to Identify Trends and Patterns for Breakthrough Innovation

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Breakthrough innovation, one of the most sought-after but largely elusive concepts in business, happens when an idea has the power to revolutionize an industry or disrupt the status quo. In a sea of ideas, the only way to guarantee a truly groundbreaking product is to identify the trends and patterns that will allow you to develop a concept that is both unique and ahead of the competition. By connecting the right dots, you will sometimes stumble upon something revolutionary that no one else has thought of.

So how do you start to identify the patterns and trends that will lead to a breakthrough innovation? There are several methods, but here are a few of the most effective:

1. Analyzing the competition

A great starting point for coming up with a breakthrough innovation is to analyze the competition. By studying what others in the same industry or space have done in the past, you can identify any gaps in the market and figure out how your product or service can fill them. This doesn’t mean stealing ideas or copying what they’ve done; instead, it’s about realizing what hasn’t been done yet and coming up with a concept to address that.

Case study: When Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen first proposed the idea of using personal computers in the home, he wasn’t the first person to think of that concept. In fact, home computing had been a concept since the late 1970s—and while many tried to make it a reality, no one was able to successfully launch a commercial product. By closely examining the competition, analyzing their mistakes, and applying his own knowledge of computer hardware and software, Allen was able to identify the patterns that would allow him to revolutionize the industry with the introduction of the first home computer.

2. Focusing on customer needs

When trying to create a breakthrough innovation, it’s important to focus on the needs and wants of the customer. This requires understanding their problems and coming up with solutions that will truly meet their needs. To do this, companies must engage in active customer research and listen to their feedback. By figuring out what the customers are looking for and thinking outside the box, companies can come up with solutions that are not only valuable, but also unique.

Case study: Airbnb is one such example of a company that saw a need in the market and sought to fill it. After surveying customers, it became clear that people were looking for a more affordable and convenient way to travel. To meet this need, the company launched its online platform that allowed users to rent out their properties—a concept that, at the time, was completely unheard of. Through active customer research and new thinking, the company was able to connect the dots and create a revolutionary concept that changed the industry.

3. Scanning the environment

Sometimes the most unexpected patterns and trends can be identified by simply looking around at the environment. Paying attention to political, economic, and social changes can often reveal an untapped opportunity that no one has thought of. Companies must stay up to date with the latest news and be alert for signs of change in their field. By looking at the bigger picture and constantly challenging the status quo, companies can come up with innovations no one has ever seen before.

Case study: In 2009, Uber was founded with the goal of getting rid of car ownership and replacing it with shared rides. While this concept was unheard of at the time, the founders analyzed changes in the environment that allowed them to make it a reality. They saw that customers were increasingly looking for convenience, along with the rise of smartphones and GPS technology that would allow customers to track rides and pay for them digitally. With these changes in the environment, they saw an opportunity to pursue their vision and connect the dots from ideas no one had thought possible.


Breakthrough innovation requires more than just the right idea and some luck—it requires the ability to connect the dots and identify patterns that will lead to a truly revolutionary product or service. By analyzing the competition, focusing on customer needs, and scanning the environment, companies can identify trends that will allow them to develop something new and groundbreaking. With perseverance, companies can unlock the resources and potential that will revolutionize an industry and create something truly unique.

Image credit: Pixabay

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