Businessweek interviews innovation guru Clayton Christensen ten years after his popular work "The Innovator's Dilemma" was published. In the interview, he even gives out a free business idea.
The deep reading is you have to be careful which customers you listen to, and then you need to watch what they do, not listen to what they say. This is catching on with one of the big automobile companies in Detroit. If you look for the jobs that people hire a car to do, the opportunities for innovation are extraordinary.
There are about 30 million Americans for whom [a car] serves as their office. Isn't it interesting that nobody has designed a car to work as an office? They pull up to Starbucks (SBUX) and go in to use their T-Mobile hot spot or if they're in Silicon Valley they'll pull up next to someone's apartment building to mooch off their Wi-Fi because they can't access the Internet in their car.
They stop at a stoplight, their notebook computer falls onto the floor. They can't recharge their computer because the electrical system was not designed to do it and there's no docking station. They throw sales literature in the backseats. Nobody's designed a car to do that job. If you understand the job, the opportunities to differentiate are just extraordinary.
For those of you that haven't read the book, one of the things Christensen harps on is that even good managers often miss innovation opportunities because they are so busy listening to their customers and improving existing products. Striking a proper balance to spawn innovation while taking care of day to day business needs is tough to do. I think it helps if you expose yourself to a little randomness.