Timing is everything. Often times you will hear people say ‘I had that idea 5 years before …’ And that’s the kicker. Many of us will have ideas, many times before they become mainstream because we recognize the need. Even as ‘early adopters,’ we need to be able to see ourselves against the S-Curve, otherwise many efforts will be wasted.
The S-Curve is the best barometer for measuring an innovation. Generally, there are 3 categories of consumers within a given market: early adopters, the mainstream, and late adopters. The key, from an innovation perspective, is to be in the market with a certain product or service with the early-adopters, but within close proximity to the mainstream, where growth goes exponential and returns on investment are maximized.
Otherwise, the risks associated with ‘being early’ are grave. Running out of money, burning out, being unable to raise financing, the list goes on. That’s why we need to continually look for signals from a breadth of indicators to see where the market is at. Ideally, your signals come from proprietary sources linked to your product/service, but otherwise, a combination of market research, consumer sentiment and intuition are necessary to fill the gap.
If you don’t know where you are at, seek out advice from people who are at the core of the market. Not necessarily big market research firms, but consumers, partners, suppliers and others who have skin in the game. Often times, a certain company will be close, but as they used to say, “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” Small pivots in products, branding, and strategy could lead to an inflection point and the beginning of the rocket up the curve.