How to get better at spotting opportunity by acting like a child
It’s the key to becoming a better entrepreneur
My son often takes cardboard boxes from our recycling bin and transforms them into magical constructions: a working pinball game or mini putting course. Where others see shoe boxes and plastic scraps, he envisions fantastical creations. Most people aren’t looking at trash as the building blocks to greatness, but children have an innate sense of wonder that allows them to see possibility everywhere.
Imagine looking at the world and seeing prospects where others don’t.That’s not just child’s play — it’s entrepreneurship. This type of vision is what helps entrepreneurs spot a gap in the market or imagine a business opportunity where no one else has. It’s critical for finding your niche and then building a product or service to fill a need.
Simply put, savvy entrepreneurs look where no one else is looking. They find openings where others see walls. A decade ago, no one was salivating over opportunities in the legacy salon industry. While most entrepreneurs would identify the space as well-trod territory, Alli Webb saw an opportunity to reinvent an antiquated salon model. Sure, traditional salons were working just fine, but Webb’s new Dry Bar addressed something they could not readily offer — quick, inexpensive blowouts at volume. Webb understood a customer’s pain point, the desire to feel the confidence that comes with a salon-quality hairdo more than a few times a year, and delivered a new kind of business. Dry Bar became a sensation because it didn’t necessarily compete with full-service salons; it complemented their offerings by focusing on one popular service and making it fast, affordable, and accessible.
Opportunity doesn’t have to be creating something where it didn’t exist before or even carving out something more niche. It can mean merely improving on the status quo. For example, I wanted to put Los Angeles on the culinary map for pizza, but the skeptics were ruthless. Everyone thought LA’s reputation for terrible pizza was too far gone — intractable. But, with my talented chef-partner and his new neo-Neapolitan spin on the beloved classic, I knew Pizzana could change hearts and palettes. Pizzana now boasts a Michelin Bib Gourmand award and has inspired a veritable pizza wave across the city, making LA an undeniable destination for a fantastic slice. I seized a wind when everyone else was confident the ship had sailed.
Though as children, we approach the world with a sense of curiosity and wonder, somewhere along the way, we settle into pragmatic fixtures. In order to spot opportunities as an adult, it’s important to work on cultivating the level of curiosity and vision of your youth. And yes, it’s work. This is how I try my very hardest to act like a child.
Play Well With Others
I loathe being in rooms of zealous carbon copies. Call it the rebel in me, but being in echo-chamber environments where everyone is busy patting each other on the back makes me want to hike the proverbial uniform skirt above my knees and dump a flask of vodka into the punch bowl. I steer clear of groupthink and recommend you do too. The next time you’re in a room of people where everyone is in agreement, run for the hills. Or, at least consider, and perhaps introduce, a different perspective to discuss. Examine your own routine. Do you get your news from the same source every day? It’s time to broaden your sources. If your habits are locked in, most likely, your mindset is too.
Ask (A Lot Of ) Questions
This may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. To spot an opportunity, you have to be actively looking for it. Life doesn’t just happen to you. You need to make life happen. Unfortunately, if you wait long enough for an idea to strike, you’ll start collecting dust. In general, I try to avoid taking things for granted or accepting the status quo (Hi, remember the pizza?). Question your daily experiences and the products you use. What if things could be better? (Hint: they can be.) Entrepreneurs are constantly imagining a better world and trying to understand what they can create to move that vision forward.
Knowledge of an industry is helpful! Being immersed within an industry, or having a good deal of knowledge about it, makes spotting opportunities easier. What space or even hobby makes you light up? What more can you learn? What else can you master? Who can be your teachers? Identify mentors, take classes, shadow the masters — do what you need to learn more. The greater your knowledge and savvy, the more aware you are of the needs that haven’t been filled in that space.
If you don’t know where to start, I suggest checking out the trash bin. I hear old Amazon boxes can do some incredible things.