Here's a great tip for all aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs. It comes from Jeff Nelson, an entrepreneur and former Google employee (via Mashable). I've heard this advice many times, but it's worth emphasizing here:
Be hyper-sensitive to pain. Another technique for innovation is simply being hyper-sensitive to what's wrong around you. For example, one of the most valuable patents of all time is the paper milk container. Milk used to be carried in round glass jars, which were fragile, heavy and bulky. An inventor realized he could hold milk in containers made of heavy-duty, coated paper, which were [sturdy], light and could be tightly packed, resulting in one of the most valuable patents of all time.
One great way to identify a user's "pain points" is to look for workarounds. What is a workaround? Consider the elderly woman who puts tennis balls on the bottom of her walker, or the Dunkin' Donuts customer who insulates their iced coffee by inserting it into a hot coffee cup. These customers have a problem with the existing product, and they have modified it to alleviate their pain. The workaround demonstrates an opportunity for innovation.