The problem of identifying a new business opportunity is best summed up by science fiction writer, William Ford Gibson’s observation that, “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
Interestingly, the topic of identifying new opportunities does not get a lot of attention. Many experts focus on trying to understand unmet consumer needs. That’s tough to do at best.
In his book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Peter Drucker summarizes the best approach that I have seen — look for the unexpected. The genius in this approach is that it focuses on what is happening in the marketplace that is positive and unexpected.
Drucker points out that most businesses tend to focus on what’s wrong. As a rule, business meetings focus on the negatives — low margins, low sales volumes, unsuccessful products, lost customers.
Virtually no meetings have an agenda item for “what went right”, “what exceeded our expectation”, “which customer ordered more than expected and why”. These meetings miss the point. The unexpected is likely the clue to the future –– the clue to the next opportunity.
If you think this is too simplistic to work – remember Ray Kroc, the genius behind McDonalds.
In 1954, Ray Kroc was a salesmen for Prince Castle Multimixers. He called on the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, CA.
While most restaurants bought one or two Multimixers, which could mix five shakes at once, the McDonald brothers had purchased eight. And Kroc was curious to see what kind of operation needed the capacity to make forty milk shakes at one time. What he learned was the the McDonald brothers had created the prototype fast food restaurant and had, in essence, industrialized food preparation. He bought out the brothers and launched an industry.
If you are working for company today, you need to keep a list of all the unexpected things in the business.
Just one good unexpected business result or outcome could be your ticket.