Monday, September 9, 2013

Telling the Opportunity story begins with finding an Opportunity Starter

Deutsch: Dom Vasco da Gama, Graf von Vidigueir...
 Vasco da Gama, (Photo: Wikipedia)
Trading of spices goes back thousands of years. Arab nations traded with Venice, giving the Venetians a European monopoly much to the consternation of their neighbors. But then something really big happened. 

It didn’t look much like the start of an opportunity at the time, but it was certainly the spark that lit things up. The Ottoman Turks cut off overland trade in 1453, monopolizing and charging a premium for goods and inadvertently starting a firestorm of efforts in maritime trade.

The Portuguese led the way. 

Vasco da Gama’s navigation of the Cape of Good Hope and successful trip to India in 1498 opened the sea route for trading and significant financial rewards for the Portuguese. 

The Portuguese so dominated that the Spanish scurried to find a trade route of their own, preferably one that didn’t create direct conflict with their neighbor. 

Ferdinand Magellan led a voyage in 1520 opening the first westward route to Asia, naming the Pacific Ocean (peaceful ocean) and becoming the first expedition to circumnavigate the world. 

In hindsight these opportunities look obvious—a nice linear story from history that tells us how it all came about. Just like the dozens of business cases that we have all read, they sound easy, even obvious, and we wish it could be us. But opportunity is rarely that obvious. By the time an opportunity is evident it will be amass with competitors. 

New opportunity is something we must search for. We need to comb through our opportunity finders, and find the pieces that will kick-start something big.  

The way we find the starting place for opportunity is again similar to how we begin putting the pieces of a puzzle together. We have made piles within piles, congregating pieces we think will match. 

And now it’s time to really get going. We find a special piece to start with, one with a distinctive feature: the bright mast of the boat, a sunlit roof, a flower that is crisply defined in a blur of blooms. 

And we build off of it. - Killing Ideas, Ch 5, Big Starters

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