Pace Of Opportunity Has Never Been This Fast
Mar 9, 2023
The pace of change is faster than ever. In fact, it is likely to get even faster, meaning that things will never be this slow again! Disconcerting? Perhaps. But perhaps not.
We believe that Change is the author of opportunity. This means that as the pace of change increases so does the pace of opportunity! And the speed of opportunity is increasing at a higher rate. There is more opportunity now than ever. While times feel uncertain and tumultuous, to the trained eye and ear they will also be times of greater opportunity.
How does change create opportunity? Opportunity is the combination of needs in the market (market pull) that are met by the right value propositions (tech push) under the right conditions including economic, regulatory, competitive, and environmental. As conditions change, so does opportunity. It diminishes in some places while it pops up in others.
When things are static – e.g., consumers are not evolving in their needs, there are no advances in technology, and no changes in the conditions, including no new competitors, regulations, economic or environmental conditions etc. – then the only way to grow is to share within an existing opportunity. Existing opportunities hold promise for growth, as long as something changes – your strategies or tactics. But significant opportunity also likes changing conditions, consumer needs, and value propositions.
The word opportunity comes from the word “into port”. It signaled the exact tide and wind that moved a boat into port – the exact conditions. Because the conditions were critical to capture opportunity, it was incredibly important to track the weather back when boats were powered by wind.
Innovation was at the heart of tracking the weather. 300 years before the Weather Channel came on the scene in 1982, the Medici family in Italy, started the Medici Network, in 1654. It was the first coordinated effort to gather temperature and other weather data such as rainfall, air pressure, evaporation rates, and currents. The network spanned an amazing 11 different regions along the Mediterranean and beyond, across what is today Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and Poland. Weather information was gathered regularly and then consolidated and analyzed. The Network enabled the creation of weather maps that revealed changes in atmospheric pressure over the region and thus the nature of weather systems. By tracking weather patterns and understanding the laws of change, captains and navigators were able to know more than a couple of hours ahead if the conditions would be right for sailing into port!
In the same way, that weather determined the fate of boats in the 1600s, change in our world opens and closes the windows of opportunity. Without change, we would soon exhaust the opportunities we have.
People change, technologies change, cultures change and so opportunities emerge or disappear for new technologies, products, services, business models, or partnerships.
It is a paradox that we hate change, but we love new things.
To find new opportunities we have to move from bracing for change to embracing change, recognizing that without change opportunity would stagnate, dwindle, or be fully tapped out.
We have to get comfortable, even fluent, in the types of change to watch for, from megatrends to microtrends, industry cycles to convergence of industries, whiffs of change in the culture, hints of regulations, start-ups that show the seeds of new things to come and patents that point to new breakthroughs. Each helps us look out across the opportunity landscape to see where new opportunity might emerge.
Of course, when the pace of change is faster than ever, opportunities come faster than ever, presenting another problem. People respond in several ways. They brace for the change, circling the wagons in a reactionary mode and ignoring new opportunity. Or they see the breadth of opportunity but become paralyzed by the options and do not pursue any. Or they latch onto a single opportunity and run with it to the exclusion of others. The key to thriving is to see the landscape of opportunities and to develop agile ways of vetting and focusing on the right ones.
To do this you need a set of skills that most organizations do not have. Not only do they need to be able to see opportunities and vet them, but they also need to be able to move at the speed of the external environment. The inability to keep up with change poses as much of a problem as the inability to see or choose the opportunities.
Given that most organizations cannot turn on a dime, the key is to slow down! We must slow down what feels like an impossible pace of opportunity to be able to take a breath and act strategically.
What slows down the pace of opportunity?
If the pace of opportunity is linked to the pace of change, we cannot objectively slow down their pace. That said, we can slow down how fast things are coming at us.
Think of riding on a train. When you try to look ahead to what is coming, it comes at you quickly. As soon as you focus on something, it passes by. It is hard to keep track of all that you see, and it can be difficult to focus on anything. Now think about taking alternative perspectives. Imagine focusing out to the horizon. The farther out you can focus, as when you are in the country, the more of the landscape you can see and the better you can focus on parts of it more clearly. Even better, think of a time when you were facing the other way. With your back facing the forward motion, your eyes see what was passing by clearly. You can see the landscape unfolding and concentrate on different features.
The same is true with opportunity. When you face the track head-on, the opportunity comes whizzing by at breathtaking speed. It feels uncontrollable – a blur. But when you look farther out, you can see better what is on the landscape and horizon. This is the long view. Looking from today out into the future.
Even better, we find that by setting yourself into the future and then looking back, you can see the landscape of opportunity, the ways in which things have changed even more clearly. The past unfolds more clearly and does not look fast. But instead, it can be beautiful.
When you look far enough in time you can see the movement of opportunities at a more macro level. you see the patterns of them evolving across industries. It makes the change in the short run more understandable. It also helps you see where opportunities are going and what their trajectory is. This perspective slows the pace and slows time.
Our natural reaction to the pace of change is to try to keep up with what is happening today. Being asked to look farther out in time may seem even more overwhelming. But doing so will help you see the trajectories along which opportunities will unfold. To slow down opportunity, to slow down the pace of change, you must take a position in the future and look back.
“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make of it."
-Marcus Aurelius Antonius, Roman emperor and philosopher
Reach out to us to learn more about how to win in the new pace of opportunity.