Fortunately, finding business opportunities is a skill you can learn.
As I’ve been helping companies (small and large) identify new opportunities for the last 10 years, I found a few books to be helpful.
Here’s my selection of the best books about finding opportunities for a new business.
Books about spotting new opportunities
First, I want to share with you four books that will dial up your ability to see new opportunities.
The Opportunity Lenses by Guerric de Ternay
New opportunities arise from changes in the marketplace. If you want to spot them, you must focus on the forces that are changing our world.
Why I wrote it
Having worked with dozens of companies to help entrepreneurs and large corporates identify new opportunities for growth, I realised that we lacked a comprehensive book on opportunities.
I wanted this book to help both identify new business opportunities and select the most promising ones.
This Is Marketing by Seth Godin
When digging for new opportunities, you should be very specific about who your audience is. Avoid being too generic or falling into the trap that what you’re doing is for “everyone”.
Why I like it
The concept of “minimum viable audience” allows you to make your target market more real. “What’s the minimum number of people that you need to serve in order to survive?”
This Is Marketing has to be treated as inspiration. It’s a light-hearted book about new opportunities.
Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim
To succeed a business shouldn’t directly compete in an overcrowded space (a red ocean), but create a new market of its own (a blue ocean).
Why I liked it
I find the “blue ocean” and “red ocean” to be a great metaphor. It helps assess the level of competitiveness you will face in a space.
Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
The business model of a company is a system. If you change part of it, this will influence the rest of the system.
Why I like it
The Business Model Canvas highlights the eight main categories of a business model. You can use the framework to identify new opportunities that would arise from changing elements of your business model.
“What happens if you change your cost structure?” “What would be the impact of having a different go-to-market strategy?” “What if you focused on another segment of customers?”
Books about assessing new opportunities
This second list gathers books that will help you assess the potential of the opportunities you identified.
Do Purpose by David Hieatt
If you want to be filled with energy to embrace a business opportunity, you need to be clear on why it’s important to you and to your customers.
Why I like it
We tend to jump straight to the commercial potential of an opportunity. But you should first interrogate yourself as to whether you will remain excited enough about the opportunity to make it a long-term success.
Having clarity on its purpose will help you sense your real motivation for making it happen.
The New Business Road Test by John Mullins
A new business opportunity isn’t just about the product idea. To fully understand the potential opportunity, you also have to pay attention to the team, the customer need, the overall market, and the wider industry.
Why I like it
It’s hard not to get caught in the excitement of a new business opportunity. All the questions raised in the Seven Domains framework will help you take a step back.
As you answer each question, you will be gaining a more objective view on the potential of the opportunity. The checklist at the end is a really helpful reminder.
Running Lean by Ash Maurya
When you’re assessing your business opportunity, you should focus your attention on testing the biggest unknowns.
Why I like it
The Lean Canvas introduced in the book turns the lean startup philosophy into a set of tangible steps to test new opportunities in market with real potential customers.
The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
When you interview potential customers to test an idea, you get more accurate data by digging for facts about their past than directly asking them to assess your idea.
Why I like it
The book gives you the tool to get unbiased data from customer interviews. It makes you aware of all the mistakes you could make when interviewing potential customers.
Through a series of simple examples, you learn how you should approach testing new opportunities with customers, and what you should avoid doing.
If you just have time for one book about business opportunities…
My choice would clearly be The Opportunity Lenses.
I wrote the book to be a comprehensive guide to help entrepreneurs and business leaders to spot their next big business opportunity.
It will take you a few hours to read the book cover to cover. And then, you’ll be equipped with the tools to identify new opportunities and select which one you’d like to pursue.
How to read all these books on opportunities
As some books are complementary, I would suggest reading them in a specific order.
Each book brings its own set of insights. Together, they are all full of advice on how to identify and assess new opportunities.
Here’s my suggestion.
Start with the books on identifying business opportunities
To warm up and open your mind on finding new opportunities, I would start with The Opportunity Lenses and This Is Marketing.
These two books will give you the frameworks and inspiration you need to start seeing opportunities everywhere. It may take a bit of time to list all these opportunities. So, be patient.
As a complement, I would recommend you reading Blue Ocean Strategy to think about opportunities in the context of the competition, and Business Model Generation to look at opportunities through business model design.
Continue with the books that question the potential of opportunities
Once you’ve got some good options, you need to question the potential of these opportunities.
First, I would read Do Purpose to think about whether it makes sense for you. (Optional: If you’re still not clear, you may want to complement this book with Find Your Why by Simon Sinek.)
Then, I suggest you read The New Business Road Test and use the Seven Domains framework to assess the business opportunities that you identified. These two books will help you select your top opportunity.
Finish with the books on testing opportunities in market
Now that you have picked an opportunity to test, I encourage you to read Running Lean and The Mom Test.
The two books will give you some practical guidance to test your opportunity with real people.
Both push you to externalise your thinking and see how people react to it. This will give you the necessary insight to decide to pursue an opportunity, to change it, or to pick a new one.
Some other tools to help you identify opportunities
Books give you a method. But then, you need insight.
There are many trend-spotting websites that can help you. They do all the hard work for you and bring you the latest trends.
Websites like Glimpse highlight all the trendiest topics and show you how interest in them has evolved overtime.
They’re very helpful and show a lot of possibilities. Have a look and let me know.