Why do people leave opportunities behind?

Are you leaving opportunities behind? Why would you do this?

You may be leaving opportunities behind because you’re not looking for them. You think you already have them, and you’re satisfied with what you’ve got. You may have a nopportunity but don’t realize it, or you’re trying to improve it and turn it into an opportunity. You’re diligently bailing out the lifeboat, but don’t realize it’s hopeless.

You may be leaving opportunities behind because you can’t see the opportunity. You therefore have no clue that you’re leaving it behind.

What are the blind spots that people have, that keep them from seeing opportunity?

People leave opportunities behind because they are excessively reverent. They look at the predominant way of thinking in their business, i.e. “this is the way we do things, this business works this way, and therefore this is where opportunity lies,” and they think: “that’s it.” They accept these beliefs as truths.

Recall, for example, when Blockbuster was the dominant video rental company. They had a stranglehold on the market. Imagine trying to challenge that. If you were the CEO of Blockbuster and an employee came to you and said: “we shouldn’t have video stores anymore because it’s all going to go to streaming. Our whole business model is going to be destroyed. There’s a giant opportunity to stream all video content.” Would you have listened?

The Blockbuster story is a great example of rule reverence. When Blockbuster dominated the video rental industry, the rulebook dictated that you had to have physical stores and distribute videos on tape or DVD’s. Then technology changed, allowing streaming. But Blockbuster stuck to the same old rulebook, as if it were dictated by God. They thought: “these are the rules. Video rental works this way.”

Why does rule reverence kill you? Because it focuses you on the business model, rather than service to your customers.

You may leave opportunity behind because you are focused on things that are not sources of opportunity. As a mission, you may be focused on making lots of money, or focused on maintaining and extracting value out of the investment in your current business model.

But nobody who buys from you cares about your mission of making money or your business model. They’re trying to get their own jobs done and get useful service they need to eliminate their own friction and convert it into value. As soon as they see a better way, that provides more efficient and effective service, they will dump you and go to the other guy.

This has happened repeatedly with big companies that go down the drain, sometimes very quickly. Kodak is a good example. As soon as there’s a better way of getting the same service, why would customers maintain any loyalty to the old business model?

You need to constantly find opportunities to make your service simpler, better, cheaper, more convenient, more relevant to whatever’s going on in the environment. If you don’t take advantage of these opportunities, someone else surely will.