THE OPPORTUNITY SEARCH
In the last piece we talked about positioning for opportunity. In this section we move to the next phase; searching for opportunity. Whilst there is a need to be ready for opportunity when it arrives; there is also a need to be able to know an opportunity when you see one.
There is an old Chinese wisdom that tells us that the Chinese word ‘crisis’ is made up of two words; one stand for danger and the other stand for opportunity. The idea here is that you can find opportunity in a crisis. Peter Drucker, the management guru says “The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity”. A crisis is a huge negative change and there is congruence in both wisdom. The question is do you see change as a danger or do you see it as an opportunity? The smart entrepreneur thrives on changes and explores it for opportunities whilst the rest avoid changes and stay in their comfort zone; perhaps waiting for money to fall down from the sky.
Drucker went on to indentify seven areas of changes to look for opportunities. Decision Processes International, (DPI) an international management consulting firm which specializes in providing clients with processes to help them improve the quality of their strategic or operational decisions, extend that to ten areas of systematic search. The ten area are;
1. Unexpected Success, such as Ray Kroc’s pursuit of why he was selling so many milk shake machines to a place called McDonalds.
2. Unexpected Failure, such as Ford’s miss with the Edsel which should have alerted them to new objectives of the auto buyer, a change eventually exploited by the hugely successful Ford Mustang.
3. Unexpected External Events, such as the advent of AIDS which led to a boom in the rubber industry.
4. Process Weakness, such as the unacceptable speed of delivery in the traditional system of the post office give rise to the guaranteed system of next-day delivery, creating the phenomenal success story of Federal Express.
5. Industry/Market Structure Changes, such as those undergone by the telephone industry, leading to the advent of numerous private mobile telecommunication companies.
6. High Growth Areas, areas of the business growing faster than the population or user groups would otherwise justify, such as the high growth of mobile phones usage giving rise to a whole range of possibilities from ring tones to mobile payments. Mobile computing and marketing become the next big thing.
7. Converging Technologies, such as the increasing sophistication and growth of computing technologies converging with the change sin the learning field spawn the growth of the ‘e-learning’ industry
8. Demographic Change, in areas such as age, education, income, geography and buying mix, which has led to an entire industry such as the recent phenomenon of restaurants, entertainment and ‘toys’ catering for the free-spending life style of the Gen X and Gen Y.
9. Changes in Perception, which aren’t based on changing facts but rather changing interpretation of the facts, such as increasing society acceptance of the gay culture leads to a growing industry catering for the needs and lifestyle of the gays.
10. New Knowledge; the whole area of new innovations and scientific discovery leads to various opportunities from high growth hormones to stem cell research giving rise to new drugs and new medical possibilities
THE SEARCH PROCESS
To put this to applications I developed the following process;
1. Event (The Change)
Identifying the ‘change’ that is relevant and would be significant to the ‘searcher”. For instance a relevant change for me was the change in perceptions; in this case, the increasingly concern that having a single income source is not safe and is not a wise choice in today’s fast changing and economically fragile environment. The perception is that no job is entirely safe.
2. The Effects
What then are the effects of the change?
In my example; this gives rise to the increasing need for people to look for Multiple Sources of income
3. The Situation
What is the present situation with regards to the effects of the Change?
This situation gives rise to a whole range of seminars offerings from stock options programs to internet marketing training to property investment training
4. The Problems or Challenges
Is there a problem that gives rise to an opportunity?
The challenge that exist right now is that most people who attended all these two or three days program finds it difficult to actually put these opportunities into real world applications.
5. The Possible Product or Services
What new idea, innovation, product or service that can be provided?
Our organization MasteryAsia provides a two years coaching program that helps our members create real world multiple sources of Income.
DPI also suggests that to seek opportunities in the various areas, we need to ask some process questions that will lead us to revealing the “hidden” opportunities. For example, some questions to ask in the area of Unexpected Success are:
* What unexpected product success have you had recently?
* In what geographic areas have you had unexpected success recently?
* In what market/industry segments have you experienced unexpected success recently?
* Which customer segments have provided unexpected success recently/
* What unexpected successes have your suppliers/competitors had recently?
* Which of your technologies have had unexpected success recently?
* Which unexpected customer/user groups have brought from you recently?
• Which unexpected sources have asked to sample/distribute/represent your product recently?
Then we can go on to ask the following questions:
* What opportunities and ideas can you develop from these unexpected successes?
* What specific new product/service idea can you think of to satisfy this opportunity?
* What specific new customer/market segment could we serve?
* What specific new geographic markets could we seek?
* What specific new improvement programme could we develop?
There is an organized way to look for business opportunities and it is not necessarily something that need to be a hit or miss high risk exercise. You can increase your chances of successes by using a logical and systematic way to either identify an opportunity or simply to confirm your ’gut feelings’ about a certain opportunity.