Today we live in a time which is unprecedented in human history. Technology evolves at the drop of a hat and as it does, changes many tangible and intangible elements with it. Five years ago we never thought people would sell their cars and go the “Uber-way”. Today, that is a reality. And amidst this technological advancement and evolution, there lies opportunity. The question I’m often asked is how do we spot an opportunity and grow before it’s ever a trend and the industry becomes saturated? And my most frequent response is: If it were that easy we’d all be millionaires by creating the next big thing. But here’s the saving grace: it’s not that hard either! Here are a few tools I use which have helped me spot opportunity long before it’s become mainstream.
1. Start where you are: You’ve got to start where you are. Don’t wait for all the ducks to line up in a row for you because it’ll never happen. Another reason why this is so important is because so many people think that they need to get into a certain industry in order to innovate new and crazy ideas. The next big thing could be in your very industry, whether it’s healthcare or construction. There’s a need for innovation and new tech everywhere! And if that’s not enough of a reason, here’s another: you know your industry best! If you switch industries it’ll mean you have to start over and learn about an entirely new industry and guess what, anyone who’s been in the industry any longer than you already has an upper-hand. So start where you are!
2. Look out! Keep an eye open for things not working the way they should. Like Seth Godin said: “Broken!” Looking for things that are broken. Broken stuff needs fixing and the reason it ain’t fixed is because when they made the thing, the tech didn’t exist. Today you can create tech that can solve the problem of the “broken” syndrome.
3. Usability and Functionality: It’s appalling to see the number of technologies that have been created that no one uses. I was recently on the judging panel of a start-up event and I was amazed by the kinds of technology that have been built without ever doing a user-base analysis. If you don’t have any users, you don’t make any money. And if you can’t make money than this isn’t a business, it’s a hobby. It’s so simple but passionate entrepreneurs who believe in their product often forget this. I’m talking to me too!
4. Hire for attitude: So many leaders hire and fire people because a certain person had or didn’t have the right qualifications. Qualifications can be developed, skills can be build, techniques can be learned; but a deeply ingrained characteristic or attitude cannot be easily changed. We hire people for attitude and not just for what they know. This of course doesn’t mean you go about hiring people with great attitude, you won’t get very far with that mentality either. One needs to at the least begin to prioritize attitude more than we are currently.
The greatest entrepreneurs of our time are applying these very skills and turning industries on their heads. It’s time you did it too! And oh! If I were to add one more thing to the list, I’d say:
5. Feedback! Listen to your users. Listen to what they’re saying because in it lies your very solution. I remember reading an article by Bill Gates once in which he said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”