This post was originally written by Facilitator Emeritus John Pfeil. 


4 Stages of Creative Problem Solving (CPS) in the Product Development Process:

  1. Opportunity Discovery
  2. Opportunity Expansion/Redefinition
  3. Idea Generation/Solution Identification
  4. Taking Action—Development / Refinement / Implementation

What distinguishes companies and brands as true innovators and leaders? One key factor: companies and brands that lead take the time, and invest the resources, to proactively search for emerging opportunities. They give their teams the permission, resources and skills needed to explore and hunt for opportunity. It is a key part of their product development process. 

There are many ways to go about the process:

  • R&D and Tech teams are given time to explore new technologies and “play”—with no agenda. Some companies recognized for this are Google and 3M. What might they create?
  • Consumer Insight teams dig deep into emerging/evolving consumer insights, needs, wishes, desired experiences, etc. and explore the potential implications and opportunities. Where are there gaps?
  • Using Trend Analysis techniques, teams analyze the key trends in all areas that impact a brand or business (e.g. technology, production, distribution, markets, populations, etc.) and identify emerging opportunities.
  • Teams perform In-depth Research Reviews to discover untapped trends and insights.
  • Teams examine “Unrelated” Categories to analyze what is emerging that might be beneficial to their category.
  • Teams use Creative Problem Solving techniques like Assumption Busting to identify all the assumptions about the category / brand, and challenge those assumptions to open up new areas of opportunity.

At Ideas To Go, we encourage clients to make Opportunity Discovery a key part of their product development process—to explore many or all of these efforts and then periodically come together to creatively examine and synthesize all that they are learning to identify the Big emerging opportunities. 

Is your team a Proactive, Opportunity Discovery Leader or a Reactive, Problem-Solving Follower? 

What are the ways your team is hunting for the next big opportunity?


John Pfeil is an Innovation Process Consultant at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.

©2013 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Katie Franke

Katie Franke is a Marketing Communications Specialist and Concept Writer at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.