John Spirk, of Nottingham-Spirk, the most successful industrial-design firm you’ve probably never heard of says,of his visits to WalMart, Target and other is “We’re looking for what’s not there.”

This is perhaps the smartest thing I’ve ever heard an entrepreneur say about the process of opportunity discovery. Opportunity discovery is the process of envisioning the gap between what’s possible and what is currently being offered – the larger that gap the greater the potential opportunity. If you combine this with the insight I heard in long ago in a lecture by William McDonough, one of the leading thinkers on sustainability “Anytime you think we’ve designed everything so perfectly and so efficiently just ask yourself how long it took the human race to figure out where to put the wheels on a suitcase”. Opportunities abound for redesigning, reimagining existing products and services that have become taken for granted. Industrial designs like the paint can are over 100 years old – why are we still pouring paint out of a tin can that has no pour spout and requires tools to open? We honestly can’t do better? Of course we can and we did. Nottingham-Spirk redesigned the paint can for Sherwin-Williams and in the process added to their success. So as a potential entrepreneur as you walk through life you should be asking  yourself “What’s not there?” “What’s not on the shelf that should be?” “Where are the gaps between what is currently being sold and what is possible?” These gaps are the essence of entrepreneurial opportunity and filling these gaps with new and better products and services is the mission of entrepreneurship and the benefits entrepreneurial action provides society.

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