1250 Broadway, 27th Floor New York, NY 10001


Don't Wait for an Opportunity to Strike You -- Find One

Don't Wait for an Opportunity to Strike You -- Find One
by Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal

Story Highlights

  • Finding your best opportunity starts with what you enjoy
  • Unsolved problems indicate opportunity
  • Ask yourself tough questions to vet your ideas

"Why didn't I think of that?"

How many times have you asked yourself that question?

Did you ask it when you heard about yet another guy who took a simple idea -- like offering an extra bed at a cheaper rate than a hotel -- and turned it into a multibillion dollar business (Airbnb)?

Did you ask it when your neighbor down the street opened up the bakery they always dreamed of having and it made money?

If you keep hitting your head with the palm of your hand and wondering why you didn't think of that, it's your turn to build something.

Sometimes people know exactly what they want to build and how, but sometimes even a natural-born builder can't figure out what is the right opportunity.

Instead of waiting around for an idea to strike, we've mapped a path you can follow to become aware of consumer needs and alert to changing events right in front of you. This three-step process just might lead you to your biggest opportunity.

3 Steps to Follow to Recognize Your Opportunity

In Gallup's new book, Born to Build, we reveal three steps successful builders use to spot subtle market openings and recognize a good opportunity. Here's an overview to get you started:

1. Start with your talents. Pay attention to what you like to do because you'll be most successful when you're working within your talent set -- your natural patterns of thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Talent accelerates your engagement with a task or an activity. A heightened sense of alertness, effortless ability, genuine feelings of satisfaction and immense enjoyment are signs that you're using your talents.

Talent also accelerates learning. When you learn an activity or task quicker than your peers do, you likely have an innate talent for it.

And finally, talent in an area increases performance outcomes. If you find that you're naturally better than most other people at something, you're probably working in an area of talent -- an area where you might find a great opportunity to build something.

2. Connect the dots. Research on human cognition suggests that builders identify opportunities by making connections between seemingly unrelated events -- patterns in social, demographic, technological, policy or other changes that spark ideas for new products and services.

A builder's ability to connect the dots depends, in part, on the innate talent (e.g., creativity, optimism, perception of risk) and, to a large extent, on prior knowledge and life or work experiences.

Gallup recommends paying close attention to the trends, events and changes occurring around you. Make note of problems to be solved or gaps to be filled. You will begin to notice relationships between seemingly unrelated events, leading you to see new possibilities and opportunities.

3. Maximize your networks. The last step in the process of opportunity recognition is to put your social network to work. Reach out to people who are knowledgeable about your area of interest.

The wider your network and the more you interact with those in it, the higher your likelihood of recognizing potentially valuable opportunities.

You should also consult an expert. Read what other builders have done in your area of interest. Diversity of ideas and expertise will help you assess opportunities as well as access additional resources that will be critical for developing your idea.

Purchase Gallup’s latest book Born to Build

We are all born to build. What are you going to build?
Discover your builder talents

Good Idea vs. Bad Idea: How Will I Know?

The next phase involves deciding whether an opportunity is practical and worth pursuing or not.

To assess your ideas, use these questions and answer them honestly:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • What am I building?
  • Who are my customers, and how am I helping them?
  • What differentiates my product/service from others in the market?
  • What financial and social resources and skill sets do I bring to the table?
  • How much am I willing to risk/lose to make my idea a reality?
  • What does success look like?

Be honest with yourself, but be patient, too.

You may go through several iterations of an idea before you land on a winner; it's an ongoing process. You'll probably be learning, adjusting and developing your ideas for a while.

But once you've got it -- it's time to activate on your idea, which is the third key to successful building and the topic of the next article in this series.

You can start building your biggest idea and help others do the same today:

Jennifer Robison contributed to this article.

Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal is Principal Scientist, Entrepreneurship at Gallup.