Want More Big Hits? Ask More Questions
Fans of television program procedurals such as Law and Order and CSI know that effective investigators solve mysteries by asking smart questions and gathering relevant information. This approach enables them to deduce a suspect's identity before each episode concludes.
Similarly, in technology scouting, challenges can often be solved by piecing together clues collected during inquiries. Scouting missions address particular business needs/wants. To achieve success, the scout must identify the right prospects, and ask a sufficient number of good questions in order to generate evaluative information. Sometimes, in addition to addressing the challenge at hand, the intelligence they gather can create additional opportunities if they approach their mission with an open and inquisitive mind.
While scouting is a discipline, it is also an art. It is important for an effective scout to remain focused on the mission to which he/she has been assigned. That said, it can often be valuable to also keep alert to opportunities that can emerge by developing creative hypotheses and making thoughtful inquiries.
To illustrate, consider the following hypothetical example: a technology scouting mission for a nutritional supplement company uncovers a technology that provides enhanced aerobic endurance, the client's stated need. The scouting brief states that the technology's performance needs to be better than the market leader in this space. Unfortunately, this candidate does not meet this requirement. As a result, the scout's initial impulse is to simply step over this lead without making further inquiry and to move on. However, before doing so, he asks the technology's developer about the technology and how it works. The developer reveals that it was originally developed to deliver compelling performance in the area of cognitive health...which it does. Cognitive health has separately been flagged by the scout's client as an area they wish to exploit. The scout therefore reports his finding to his client who then pursues the cognitive health lead. He then continues his search for more promising aerobic endurance enhancement leads.
Companies can collect more big hits if they approach their scouting inquiries by taking time to ask more good questions.