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April 3, 2009

Idea or Opportunity?

Idea or Opportunity; an Entrepreneurial Perspective

I am writing this blog not only for budding entrepreneurs but also for innovators, managers, staff personnel, and executives who may not recognize the difference between an idea and opportunity.

Some people do not know what do with their ideas, others may believe their idea is the greatest thing since sliced bread and want to rush out and patent it or start a business. Yet many people pass by the opportunities right in front of them. How do you tell the difference?

About ideas: A good idea may be something that is different, a change, an improvement, or perhaps completely new. On the other hand, a great idea is when others listen to your idea and go “WOW – Why didn’t I think of that”.  This perspective is unlikely to change regardless of whether your idea is a “new mousetrap”, a breakthrough biotech drug, or a process change within a company.

Good ideas are thought of all the time, however, even a great idea is not a guarantee to success.  Having an idea is only one step. Translating your idea into a business requires research, planning and an opportunity.  

About opportunities: A business opportunity is the recognition that an existing, new or modified product/service has a potential value that can be ascertained by meeting a need that is currently being unfulfilled. Opportunity recognition may result from your prior experiences, networking, social contacts, or business contacts etc.  

Opportunities do not need to be glamorous.  Yes, we would all like to find a cure for cancer or invent a breakthrough technology. However, sometimes an opportunity can be found by looking at the world around you. One of my favorite stories is how a friend of mine who had spent years as a computer programmer made his  fortune in pest controls. His goal was to work for himself. He would spend hours every day talking to strangers, friends, and business people.  Eventually he recognized a need that was not being met in a particular market. After additional research and planning he moved to the new market and started his business. The type of business he chose to start was not his first choice – however the opportunity was.

The importance of both:  History demonstrates that many opportunities are derived from someone else’s ideas or inventions (electricity – uses of electricity), but also that many ideas are generated from perceived opportunities (need for travel – airplane, ships etc.).

Entrepreneurs are driven by opportunity, they think about their own ideas and the ideas of others.  A good business idea is conceived when an opportunity for the application of an idea has been discovered.  Not being able to find a marketable application is one of the reasons scientists and inventors struggle to understand why their idea may not be worth a billion dollars. Conversely, recognizing new applications for existing ideas is why some older products suddenly discover new life. The Entrepreneur’s Advisor™ suggests focusing in on the opportunity.

If you would like to know more or bounce your ideas off an expert, visit our website at