This is a question that aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small business owners constantly ask. Rarely do they get specific answers. This is because most people think ideas are opportunities. In my book “Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice” I spent a whole chapter trying to explain the difference between ‘ideas’ and ‘opportunities’ and how great businesses are built on their combination. But how does one actually find opportunities?
Here is one approach. Opportunities appear whenever there are changes taking place in the environment. If anything changes, there arises a need for something. This gives rise to opportunities. These may be problems, challenges, etc.,. But at the root of it all sits – change. In fact this is not anything new – Drucker (management thinker) wrote about it years ago. If this is so, the next question is – How do we find changes? At many times during the year, think tanks release trend analysis. Leading thinkers and think tanks suggest trends that are forming. Here is an example of one from the World Economic Forum website. The top ten trends extracted from their article for your reference (Link to WEF Article):
Each of these trends also have detailed discussions on how they are changing the world around us – read whichever interests you. I am sure there are numerous other lists like these. Find and explore them – they will lead you to fresh opportunities. In the remaining post we will explore how we can dig into changes to find opportunities.
Are you wondering how these changes that are currently taking shape will create opportunities? Think again!
For example – lets take the case of ‘rising pollution’. If this trend attracts your attention, then you can look at all those who contribute to pollution (innumerable individuals and institutions) and those that are impacted by them (again innumerable). Why are firms polluting? Is it because they do not know an improved way of production? Are there better production methods or safer materials or improved machines? Can you design and create them? These solutions can be in various categories of pollutants – air, water, etc.,. Think deeper!
Another example: ‘growing importance of health’. If health interests you, look at all the obesity around you. Look at all the diagnosable diseases that were not diagnosed and resulted in irreparable losses to families and institutions. Can you create the next disease prediction algorithm? Can you create the next range of wearable medical devices? If you are a medical professional, can you look at improved chemical combinations to treat new diseases, especially lifestyle diseases. Think deeper!
If one looks at trends and then digs deeper, there is immense potential for discovering opportunities. The bigger the opportunity discovered, the bigger the changes of entrepreneurial success. Hence it is in the best interests of every entrepreneurial individual to learn how to locate opportunities – this is a skill worth picking up.
Are there other ways of locating opportunities? Do share your thoughts so that we can take this discussion further.