Note: This article was originally printed in Compass Points November 2006
By Thomas E. Ambler, Senior Consultant
No one knows better than you that your markets are not what they used to be. They are undergoing an accelerating shift on what and where customers place value and who in the supply chain makes the best profits. Your ”sweet spot” isn’t nearly as sweet as it was not all that long ago. What you considered ”good business” yesterday has lost much of its glitter. As a result, you seek a dynamically changing portfolio of new market opportunities that will assure that you transform today’s Core Business into the best possible Core Business for tomorrow.
You want to pursue these Market Opportunities to the point where you can make a wise go/no go decision. The continual search for new Market Opportunities that are ”good business” consists of two distinct phases as diagrammed in Figure 1 below—the Opportunity Idea Generation Phase and the Opportunity Development Phase.
Both Phases require Opportunity Screening. Business literature related to innovation offers a number of Opportunity Screening devices, but none are better than the general-purpose Market Opportunity Screen taken from our Simplified Strategic Planning process1. Based on sound new product/market launch research by MSU Professor Frank Bacon, it can be used as the screen for go/no go decisions at all stages in the development of an opportunity.
Once an opportunity begins to take structure in Phase 2, we know pretty well how to deal with it. The bigger challenge lies in Phase 1. How do we generate ideas for ”good business” in the first place?
Generation of ”good” opportunity ideas requires instituting a systematic, common sense process that ferrets out possibilities, a culture that fosters a willingness to fail, a recruiting method that seeks curious, intelligent, open-minded associates and a work ethic that just won’t stop.
Fundamentally, a ”good” opportunity is one that (a) fits with who you want to become as a company, (b) involves an attractive market and (c) takes advantage of a competitive opening.
Figure 2 below, the OPPORTUNITY IDEA GENERATION CHECKLIST, is a very useful checklist of mind joggers and idea starters for Market Opportunities. It incorporates the three ”good” opportunity criteria and is derived primarily from the Market Opportunity Screening Worksheet used in the Simplified Strategic Planning Process.
What other idea starters have you found useful? Share them on the author’s blog site, http://strategy–thehighroad.blogspot.com or email them to email@example.com.
Jump-start your opportunity brainstorming sessions. Try out some of these idea starters. If you want even more idea starters, take a look at the references below. May you generate lots of Good Ideas that lead to Great Execution!
1. Robert W. Bradford and J. Peter Duncan with Brian Tarcy, Simplified Strategic Planning: A No-Nonsense Guide For Busy People Who Want Results Fast, (Worcester, MA: Chandler House Press, 2000)
2. T. E. Ambler, ”The Pursuit of Good Business,” Compass Points (October 2003)(available from the Article Archives of www.strategyletter.com)
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Tom Ambler is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org