When You See Untapped Potential, by Definition You Have an Unpopular Idea (Don't Seek Approval)

These are from some notes I made while reading Blue Ocean Strategy. So, they have a bit of the feel of notes, but are interesting.

Reading about innovation in Blue Ocean Strategy. It’s a great book (with a lot of business-y jargon), all about finding untapped markets, how to go about it, and how to seize them. It gives you tons and tons of good ideas about how to do this, and how to think about things.

When you see an enormous untapped market potential for something, almost by definition, most people will disagree with you.

Or, they might not disagree with you that the potential exists, but then most likely they will give you some reasons why it can’t be done—some limitation.

In other words, people tend to believe what they see, they tend to believe what makes them comfortable, and they tend to resist the new. But, all innovation is about creating the new, so you’d better get used to the idea that people won’t tend to radically embrace your new ideas. In fact, they may heartily discourage you, or (and maybe this is worse), just ignore you completely.

This doesn’t mean that every potential opportunity one sees necessarily exists. (The book has many interesting ways of helping you find out which potential ideas make sense to pursue.) Perhaps it means that the set of potential untapped markets is a subset of percieved possible markets.

If we envision a circle representing the set of possible things we see as working, as a subset of all ideas of something that might work; and within that, a subset of things that will work. And pretty much encircling the whole thing, the beliefs that none of it is likely to work, by the mass of people.

all ideas of something that might work

..all possible things that we imagine could work

..all the things we imagine could work, that could work

Almost by definition, blue oceans represent things that “average” people don’t want or think will work.

Diffusions of Innovation Model (Wikipedia)

Robert Morris’ Chrossing the Chasm divides markets into early adopters, the middle swell, and late adopters. The psychology of early adopters is very different than the psychology of the middle swell, which is very different from the psychology of late adopters. Although he was talking about technology, this is probably true for things besides technology—social movements, personal practices, habits, etc.

Innovators are the most likely to take on a new idea, so they would adopt it first—before the rest of society thought it made sense.

Initial hostility to the automobile was apparently great, with people sabotaging roads. (People will fight vociferously for the status quo, even when that is very undesirable.)

So the bottom line is: If you percieve there’s an unmet potential in the world—the marketplace of money, or ideas, or anything—anticipate the experience that other people will generally tell you how it can’t be done, doesn’t make sense, and generally try to discourage you.

Above all, don’t look for approval from the crowd. The history of innovation is made by people who are not looking for approval, because existing ideas are what we’re likely to gain approval from.

No matter that at some later date, they may have been lauded for their innovation! If they’d set out to gain approval, they would never have become innovators.

If we have a cool idea, our natural inclination is to seek out approval for our idea. We might not get it.

So, then, if you feel you see untapped potential, your job is not to seek approval or validation—which would be effectively asking others to check your idea against their existing view of reality. Innovation = creating new reality.

Instead, you’d want to test it against what actually happens. Find out what people really want. See what happens when you introduce it. See what happens, when you try something radical.

Our minds always want to keep us within fences, and we, essentially, need to keep breaking out of them. (This much of what Avatar is about, by the way.)

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