“It’s through curiosity and looking at opportunities in new ways that we’ve always mapped our path.” – Michael Dell
Ever been in a situation where something happened and you snapped, “how didn’t I see this opportunity” or “I can’t believe I missed this opportunity”. You never intended to miss the opportunity, you only didn’t recognize it was an opportunity until someone took the chance.
It happens to almost everyone. As much as we can discern most opportunities, some of them are hidden in the complexities of problems that we could marginally see the chances.
Opportunities are openings or chances for something positive to happen, but you’ll need to claim them for yourself!
They usually arise from situations outside your organization and require an eye to what might happen in the future. They might arise as developments in the market you serve, or in the technology you use. Mostly, opportunities come disguised as a problems. For instance, The famous inventor Thomas Edison. Edison realised that the problem with Swan’s design was the filament. A thin filament with high electrical resistance would make a lamp practical because it would require only a little current to make it glow and so he created a completely functional lighting system, including a generator and wiring as well as a carbon-filament bulb.
Netflix was founded in 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in a small California city called Scotts Valley, in Santa Cruz county. According to Reed Hastings, the idea was sparked by a $40 fine he got for renting the movie Apollo 13 from long-dead Blockbuster and returning it six weeks late.
These and other inventions were sparked by opportunities people saw in problems they have experienced. There are so many things that are not working in the system that you feel would be better if only this or that was invented. That right there is the opportunity in that problem you have faced.
The first way to recognize opportunities is that they come disguised as problems. So, every time you complain about something, you must think of structures that could be put in place to ease that situation. Recognising opportunity is a cognitive process. It relies on the ability of people to recognise patterns and connect the dots. People can make the links between the dots using their prior knowledge and experience. In doing so, they can link them to problems or to needs they or people around them have.
The following story clearly illustrates the meaning of identifying opportunities (as they come disguised as problems) The story is about two businessmen coming to a new continent to sell shoes. Half an hour later, they both call their wives. One says: My dear wife, don’t worry, tomorrow I’m getting on the plane back to you. No one here wears shoes. They’re all barefoot. The other says: My dear wife, I am very sorry, but I will not be able to return in the coming year, there is a fantastic opportunity to sell shoes here, everyone goes barefoot.
In essence, what one man saw as a problem, the other businessman saw as an opportunity. Imagine how many times you have complained about a product or service; maybe that the product doesn’t really serve its purpose or that the packaging is low-quality or something entirely different. That could have been a great opportunity to invent a better product that serves its purpose in that regard.
Some of the world’s most famous smartphones and computers began in the garage of two young men who saw the opportunity to provide smaller personal computers to ordinary people instead of simply meeting the needs of big corporations. Today, we see that brand, Apple, everywhere.
Another way to recognise opportunities is to identify trends. Ideas for projects can also arise from identifying trends. It is advised to be attentive and aware of our surroundings. Sometimes, as an outcome of being alert to the surroundings, we can identify the beginning of trends that hadn’t yet received any attention from the mass media like in the era of face masks. Some fashion houses recognized the trend as an opportunity to showcase their creativity and they jumped on it. From Luxurious fashion houses who made face masks covered in diamonds to the street tailors who made face make with Ankara. These are examples of recognising opportunities through current trends. The ability to recognize trends in time and leverage them can lead to great success.
Also, opportunities could lie in other people’s inventions or businesses or crafts. What new ways can you do something better than it already is? What product or business do you think is not up to par and you have generated ideas to make it better? That is exactly how competition is born. We have varieties of the same products and companies offering similar services because one saw an opportunity to do something better than the existing market. The cycle is unending.
Opportunity recognition is actually a process that’s found in the way that individuals and businesses with an entrepreneurial mindset approach new business ventures or ideas. In many ways, it is a constant brainstorming in which individuals look for ”new and improved ways” of addressing problems. It could be a brand new business idea or even new products or services that fulfil customers’ needs and expectations.
Opportunity is everywhere. The key is to develop the vision to see it.