There is a difference between a big opportunity and your particular idea, product, or solution.
The opportunity space might be described as a market, a demographic, a defined problem, or a big hairy audacious goal. Your idea, product, or solution is what I would refer to as the solution space. It’s a subset of the total opportunity, and the quality of your solution will dictate how much of the opportunity space you might capture.
As an example, you have a great idea for a new way for Americans to buy all types of retail goods. It’s a game-changing idea. The opportunity for that is in the region of 325 million people. This could also be described as 126 million households. And, finally, the market size is predicted to be around $5.48 trillion by 2020. The likelihood that your solution is good enough to capture all of this opportunity is low as you compete against all of the major players. What do you do, if your idea turns out not to capture much of the market at all? You pivot. You continue. You persevere. You get better at refining and inventing to solve customer needs. You continue to explore and discover what customers really want.
The solution space and opportunity space can sometimes be confused. This tends to be when people have invested a lot of money in a solution or a business case. The solution becomes the opportunity. But, the opportunity is always bigger.
In a conversation between Zynga’s founder, Mark Pincus, and Reid Hoffman discussing how Mark learned the hard way about focusing on only the best ideas was: ‘Be relentless in pursuing the opportunity. Be ruthless in killing your ideas’.
Do you have a good handle on the overall opportunity space? How is your current idea helping you better explore and discover what might be most successful?