Lately, I have become somewhat obsessed with the question of how companies (and their people) find and develop truly unique, disruptive opportunities. Dismayed by seeing all too many companies creating small, incremental change which does not drive enough value in the marketplace or for their customers to be fundable and sustainable, I dug deep into the literature and talked to a series of (successful) entrepreneurs.
Here’s the one commonality I found across all my research: Real opportunities — defined as new, often surprising, initially hidden insights which lead to disruptive change, unveil themselves only after the innovator has moved to the edge in her respective field.
What this means is that you first have to gain a deep understanding of your field, spanning from the basics and core elements/principles to the latest research and findings. Once you have reached a sufficient level of prolificacy and moved your understanding literally to the edge of your field, new opportunities will become visible to you.
The bad news with this insight is that you have to put in the work. There is no shortcut, no “lean startup” way of discovery, no magic pill but long hours of deliberate practice. The good news though is that it’s doable (and not some special trait only available to the most visionary founders amongst ourselves) and that putting the work in, gives you a defendable edge over others who are still hoping for the best as they are moving from pivot to pivot.