Watch That Space!

There are no rule books, or set guidelines in place to follow on the very ambiguous domain of ‘White Space’ thinking, it is a metaphor about creating opportunity and a space where the competition does not exist, an entrepreneurs dream and the land of milk and honey. The skills required are more often than not developed whilst on the job, and often begin with no clear goal or process. How can companies operate like this when governed by stern policies, steadfast strategies and firm authority? Well it seems an increasingly necessary process if a business wants to expand and grow into new areas.

‘White space’ thinking is all about discovering or creating gaps in a marketplace where profitable opportunities exist and which fall outside the box of a formal business model including planning, budgeting and management. ‘Black space’ is a term used to describe the exact opposite, and is the core from which all business opportunities are drawn from, for example, the company Coca Cola owns or licenses and markets more than 500 non-alcoholic beverage brands and has specifically aimed at wholesalers and retailers to profit from.

It appears that many businesses are reluctant to enter the realm of ‘white space’ because they are simply entering the unknown, and for some to invest into an idea or project with no clear framework or objective is just too much of a risk to take. This can’t be said for companies like Virgin who with over 400 operations in around 40 different market places, is probably the best example. Virgin was born and has thrived to these huge proportions through innovation and diversification from Virgin Money to Virgin Music to Virgin Galactic, the group has certainly thrived through thinking outside the box!

For a company to diversify and grow into other unserved markets it needs an approach from an internal and external perspective, this is known as ‘white space mapping’ and is where a strategy is conceived. External mapping creates an overview of the market, product or service a company wants to exploit, which is then concluded as being served, under served or not served. This process can uncover gaps in the market which can then be exploited for profit, therefore creating a business opportunity. Internal mapping is a look into a company’s own capability moving forwards, its competition in the marketplace and to unveil any barriers that may prevent or delay the development of new products, services or markets.

In a world where competition is extreme, for a business to expand and thrive where new innovations and technologies are emerging at an ever quickening rate, they need to be able to adapt by constantly evolving and shifting their growth strategies. Using ‘White Space’ mapping and management can provide the necessary tools, and must surely be normal practice to exploit the increasingly difficult to find, and profit from gaps in the market.

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