Innovation comes from observing customers. That's all. You'll find tons of product opportunities to capitalize on by observing how people are accomplishing everyday tasks. OXO comes to mind as a company that drives innovation from observing their customers. OXO made it's name by developing easy to use kitchen tools in an industry that is extremely competitive and hard to get into. What was their big break?
OXO's angled measuring cup was born from simple observation. Check out this video below of Alex Lee, the president of OXO, discussing how they observed ordinary consumers using their non-angled measuring cups.
Users would fill up the cup part way, then bend over to check the level - then fill some more, then bend over again to check the level. This pointed the way for OXO's innovation: showing the amount-markings at an angle so users can easily read the amount as they fill the cup.The funny part is that people never said they wanted an angled cup. They did not know know that there was a problem, so they just went on with their daily tasks. The job of innovators is to find that unmet need and make a product to meet it. The best way to do this is to observe your customers in the wild to see how they interact with objects day-to-day just like OXO's researchers did. Don't ask leading questions, just observe. This is exactly what Steve Jobs did when he hid in the bushes outside the Apple store.