Recognizing New, Winning Business Opportunities

This article is part of a series on what causes a firm’s value to increase


Are you good at recognizing new, winning business opportunities?

The skills and insights to do this are the holy grail of the business world.

We go to the fitness center to build muscle strength and flexibility. Research on the brain and how it functions and improves suggests we go to the “brain gym” to build the brain’s strength, flexibility and endurance. We used to think that a person’s brain capacity for problem solving and creativity was set by the time we are eight to ten years old. This turns out not to be the case according to modern brain research. Grown adults can learn to use their brains and get better into later life. If we want to get into great shape at the body gym (not merely improve) we all know this takes discipline and hard work. This is exactly what happens in training the brain to recognize new, winning business ideas if we are not already good at it. It seems like hard work.

For most new, winning business ideas you may need to get out of your comfort zone. Otherwise, the tendency to stay with the status quo can overwhelm you. I will provide an outline ranging from the least amount of work and least change to the most work and most radical change to your comfort zone.

Easier and Least Amount of Comfort Zone Change:

  1. What peeves you on a daily basis? Does this also peeve a lot of other people? For me it is long waits at the doctor’s office or a cocktail for $9.50 in a very small glass at a restaurant. What peeves you on a daily basis? Any way to create a business to solve these peeves?

  1. What do you currently want but cannot find? One of my hobbies is golf and over the years I have invented my own little brain tricks to make the game seem easier. My new idea is a smaller than normal golf ball that has all the properties of a real golf ball – in other words not a plastic practice ball. I Googled and found nothing. Could this be a business?

  1. What are emerging local and state trends you could participate in? Now we have local and statewide interest in improving education from K through technical schools to four-year college. Many times you can actually get partially funded by local and state entities by aligning with local and state trends. What are the other emerging local and state trends?

Moderate Work and Moderate Change to Comfort Zone:

Research into brain strength and flexibility show that people who are good at recognizing new opportunities, have an interesting correlation: these people tend to read a lot. Bill Gates, Steven Jobs and others were known voracious readers – from business journals to books on physics. When confronted with a new challenge their minds unite these strands to produce a very comprehensive first draft of a business case for the idea.


  1. What are current and known unstoppable national and global trends? Water shortage, hunger, disease outbreaks, basic necessities of life like electricity and safety, the need to grow entrepreneurs (because jobs are not available) and the like? Could you participate with even a small piece of the supply chain and management to form a business?


A Large Volume of Work and Large Change to Comfort Zone:

Growth requires bringing potential customers to the products, services and solutions they are not aware they need yet. By the very nature of this kind of “idea jogger,” you may need a hunch to get started. I have the first two kinds of idea joggers that will put you into shape to have hunches. What will the next smart phone be? When Apple introduced their first smart phone in 2005 very few people knew they needed this product and service. Now many cannot function without one. I have a hunch a new vista could be the enhancement of brain functioning itself. I read in the medical journals forecasts of huge improvements in this area to come. You will not need to be a M.D. to participate in the myriad kinds of businesses that will be needed to deliver in this space and could participate in a small area.

Six years ago I created a very simple matrix that had the three levels of work and comfort zone change as data rows, and local, state, national and global trends as data columns. Every morning when I read my newspapers and other readings, I jotted down just one new business idea somewhere in the matrix. At 365 days per year and one idea per day, I now have close to 2100 ideas jotted down.

It seems fun to review this from time to time for inspiration. Some of the ideas weren’t great and some had very strong potential. You can do this too, and be amazed at how much better you get by this simple method. I wish I had started this much earlier in my career!


Bill Bigler is Director of MBA Programs and associate professor of strategy at LSU Shreveport. He spent twenty-five years in the strategy consulting industry before returning to academia full time at LSUS. He is involved with several global professional strategy organizations and can be reached at and