Ideas are Dime a Dozen, Opportunities are Priceless


Many of us often use the term Idea and Opportunity interchangeably. We say,“I have this Idea and I want to run with it.” What we imply is that I have an Opportunity that has business potential and I am going for it.

Unfortunately, an idea and an opportunity are not the same thing! Not only are they different in semantics, they are poles apart in their intention and value. Ideas are a mental image of something. They can be abstract or concrete. In a popular sense, an idea arises in a spontaneous manner, even without thinking or serious reflection. As they say, Ideas are dime a dozen.


Within the ideas their may or may not be an opportunity. The chances are very high that most spontaneous ideas are not opportunities. However, if you can find an opportunity in the stack-it can be priceless!

Serious entrepreneurs are very clear between an idea and an opportunity. If you have a mentor they will make sure that you know their difference at a deep visceral level.

Many people make one of two mistakes:

Mistake # 1: Run with their first idea, without searching broadly for additional ones. This seems efficient; but, it is a recipe for disaster. No wonder the failure rate of people running with their ideas is so high.

Generating a lot of ideas has to be the starting point to find the right opportunity that you are looking for. In a future post I will devote it entirely to the issues of Raw ideas.

Mistake # 2: Generate lots of ideas but get swamped with the process of vetting each one of them for uncovering an opportunity. It is like finding a needle in the haystack. The elaborate ritual can become so cumbersome that it is often ignored. It is a bureaucratic nightmare and that is why most people jump straight from an idea to assuming it is an opportunity. In frustration they make Mistake # 1.

Once we have lots of ideas (and it is a must to avoid Mistake # 1), how can we quickly hunt for opportunities (to avoid Mistake # 2)?

A magic tool that is capable of efficiently screening zillions of ideas for potential opportunities would be worth every penny! Isn’t it? What would you pay for it?

Well we will come to the price later. First. we need to be clear on what an opportunity is. We have already defined what an idea is.

Opportunity n., (Middle English, from the Latin opportunus- ob, to + portus, Harbor seasonable (originally of wind), “blowing toward the harbor”). A favorable or advantageous combination of circumstances; suitable occasion of time.

The key root of an opportunity, then, is timing. Not creativity, not novelty, but fortuitous timing for you. (Is the wind blowing now towards the harbor for your ship?).

Our process of testing an opportunity is all about testing if the direction of the wind is in a favorable direction for me. Note the 3 key elements of an Opportunity: Towards a desired destination, You, and Now

A truly great idea may not be an opportunity for you, at least not at this time. It may be an opportunity for someone else (who has more of the building blocks) or maybe at a later date (when some missing elements are finally available). It may be something that should be done, it may be badly needed; it may promise wonderful benefits. But it still may not be an opportunity for you, now.

I have developed a $64,000 question that can easily sort lots of ideas into potential opportunities.

Are you ready for the question? Yes! Then where is my fee?

OK just this one time, you can have it at no charge:

$64,000 Q: Is this Idea an Opportunity for me (us) today (now)?

Depending upon your immediate response to the question, sort each idea into three piles 1. No, go to a bin of discards, 2. Yes, a potential opportunity and 3. Maybe. Only the second and third pile get further review. Put pile #1 on a shelf, some of them may play a role later in the journey.

This question is simple. It requires no analysis. Just go with your or group intuitive response.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the question, it is an extremely potent one and can help sort and enrich your numerous ideas into Key Ideas.

In several actual engagements we end up reducing the raw ideas by 90%, to get Key Ideas in a very efficient manner. You can have best of both worlds; generate lots of ideas and only apply serious vetting processes to the sorted Key Ideas to take it further.

Now wasn’t this powerful question worth $64,000? Remember if you do find the right opportunity, it is priceless!

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Dr. Rajiv Tandon is an Entrepreneur, Educator and Mentor. He facilitates peer groups for CEOs of fast-growing companies in Minnesota. To learn more, sign up to get the email newsletter.