The other day I wrote about the new frontier in facilities. A focus on funding/financing, leapfrog technologies, and professionalization aren't actually new, of course, but each area would benefit from much more discovery and development. There is fertile ground there for would-be innovators and thought-leaders to explore.
What's the frontier in your industry? How can you tell?
The idea is to separate incremental process improvement (still very important) from the big, looming stuff that is not yet fully understood. What are the known, universally accepted problems vs. the undocumented hunches and speculation shared in the hallway with colleagues? What's known and fixable vs. not fully understood and baffling?
Our big program challenges start off on the frontier side. After studying them and talking about them and trying stuff, the problems slowly migrate towards an dense, urban center. This isn't to suggest that everything is fixed and life is good. The problem is just now understood and everyone is busy hacking away at implementation.
Frontier problems are hazy, the edges aren't quite clear, and there is far from universal agreement about the nature of the problem-- let alone any solution.
Mixing them together in communication with staff and stakeholders can create confusion and reduce the impact of your message. Clearly bucketing them with labels for known, process improvement efforts vs. frontier problems in needed. Most days in most meetings, we're on the hook to provide status on the known stuff. Sprinkling in a couple of bigger picture problems can help excite and engage an audience-- if you're careful not to suggest that the solution is set.
The promise of new discovery is the hook.