Systematic Opportunity Discovery

The Oxford Dictionary defines opportunity as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” Although opportunities are generally thought of as spontaneous, serendipitous, and not amenable to process, is it possible to find them systematically?

In general, an opportunity is a chance to move from state A to state B; a business opportunity requires an interaction with another person or organization to create a desired outcome. Since a business opportunity implies a relationship, a thorough understanding of how and why relationships are created is the foundation of systematic opportunity discovery. Although some opportunities arise through original creative thought, even those are based on an understanding of relationships.

The exchange of money for goods and services is one type of business interaction, but it represents a desired outcome, not an opportunity. While the ultimate measure of success is revenue generation and profitability, value creation must precede it. An opportunity is created by an exchange of resources that enhance value. What classes of value-enhancing resources are there?

Five of the most common are:

1. new products and technology,

2. brand recognition,

3. additional staffing,

4. customer relationships, and

5. new markets and industries. 

A majority of business opportunities arise from the recognition that one or more of these resources can be leveraged to add value to existing offerings. How can we intentionally and systematically identify and define opportunities based on this principle?

The process that leverages this knowledge comprises 4 steps:

1. Define your company’s value relative to others.

2. Define other companies’ value relative to yours.

3. Leverage individuals gifted in identifying and defining new opportunities.

4. Discover opportunity in the gaps.

Valuing Your Company

A crystal clear picture of your company’s value is a critical enabler of systematic opportunity discovery. What resources does your company have, and which ones does it need? Well-understood strategic positioning affects the bottom line positively. It minimizes investing in opportunities that deliver little or no return while enhancing the chance of finding richer opportunities.

Valuing Other Companies

The second step depends upon the first. Knowing clearly what your company offers, you can view other companies through this lens: if another company were to acquire mine, what would be the increase or decrease in the value of the combined companies? An exit strategy approach is a proven way to identify value in other companies, and you’ll learn what resources you may have that they need.

Leveraging Gifted Individuals

Some individuals are naturally gifted in identifying and defining opportunities. Harnessing this strength by including the right individuals in your company. If your team lacks this strength, augment your team with advisors who possess vital insight into opportunity discovery.

Opportunity in the Gaps

Opportunity is driven by accurate perceptions of value, so clarifying your understanding of what others find valuable versus what you find valuable leads to discovery. The gaps between companies represent potential opportunities.

To systematically discover opportunities, the CEO must to set the right tone. Leading your company to an opportunistic frame of mind is less tangible but vitally important. Set the right example by staying curious and remaining open to new possibilities, then follow this four-step process!

About Bob Barker
Bob Barker is a trusted advisor to CEOs, helping them identify, define, and execute new growth-accelerating opportunities. He also shares ideas on LinkedIn (robertgbarker), in guest posts on related blogs, and in industry publications. Contact him via email at bob@2020outlook.com.

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