IEOR 190A Lecture 5: Opportunity Recognition

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to stay vigilant and constantly seek out opportunities for your projects and for yourself. To find beneficial opportunities, you need to explore your possibilities and assess their viability and usefulness to you. As Professor Martin says, Life is always an adventure. Another way to find opportunities is to find unexpected connections between topics and trends.

While exploring, it’s important to allow yourself to be a beginner. Too often, we find ourselves stuck with a fixed mindset. The fixed mindset assumes that individuals have no space for development; one is either good at something or not. As explorers, we should all trend towards the Growth mindset. The growth mindset, while flawed at times, says that anyone can learn something if they try. The focus in the growth mindset is not on brainpower or talent but on challenging yourself and constantly aiming for higher, never letting yourself stagnate.

Furthermore, it’s important not to compartmentalize your work life and your personal life. Growth occurs across all sectors of your life, and if you break your life up into entirely separate portions, you will inevitably miss out on important opportunities. These means you should be constantly expanding your networks, meeting new people with new mindsets.

In order to meet people and develop meaningful connections, you should develop your conversational skills. Meetups are a great way to meet others and practice your talking skills.

The next step is to assess the opportunities that you have found. For many opportunities, timing is key. Getting involved with a project at the wrong time can be a waste of time. Furthermore, involvement with emerging technologies is always a hit or a miss, as some projects make it out, but many do not. The way to determine which opportunities are for you and viable are to determine both your own biases and the biases of the project. Do not forget to account for base rates, and recognize that the success of a project does not come just from your effort. Unfortunately, luck plays a large role in a lot of success stories. Furthermore, while persistence is important, it’s also important to determine when to stop; in a study done by the Inventors Assistance Program of Canada, of entrepreneurial groups in the program that were ranked poorly, 70% continued. Of these 70%, almost half of the projects not only failed to improve, but on average doubled their losses. As a result, it’s important to weigh in negative feedback and let go of delusional optimism when it’s detrimental to your goals.