“Find the Gap” or “Mind the Gap”?

Regular readers (hi mum :-)) [Even your mum doesn’t read you… Ed] will know that I reserve a certain amount of sniffiness/contempt for business school tick-box-isms about “How To Do Business”.  The same contempt that Taoists felt for the Confucian tick-box approach to how to be human.  Life ain’t like that.

Conventional wisdom is that the business development strategy is to find the gap.  Rather I would caution that one has to mind the gap…

mind-the-gap2Why? Surely it’s great to do what you have always heard … find some product or service that the market isn’t offering?  What more could the market want?

I know loads of folks who, in truth, don’t actually have the soul of an entrepreneur.  They feel that if only they could think up a great idea that no-one has thought of, this product that doesn’t exist, they could leave their white-collar factories and make millions.

Maybe but history is littered with folks who had a great idea.  I personally know someone who went bust pursuing his great idea.  History’s great innovators were all kicking into the wind for a loooong time.  Many of them carried on to success only after dying. Heavy trip maaaan.

We are all stability machines.  In our complex world we have so many tasks that we can’t consciously attend to them all.  We need to delegate most of our daily life to the unconscious parts of our brains.  We buy this toothpaste, that washing up powder, commute to work this way and eat in that restaurant.  Society is like this raised to the exponential power.

Arguably there are few unmet or un-meetable human needs in the modern world (apart from stable employment and self actualisation perhaps).  It’s a bit like the oft-repeated meme that we only use a fraction of our brain.  Nonsense – there is no white space, no “gap”, on MRI scans … bits of the brain just waiting to be used.

Steve Jobs gets over-mentioned as an innovator – but gradually it’s clear he wasn’t a technical innovator.  2D windows (rather than line by line text which preceded it), which Apple pioneered and Gates copied, came from Xerox.  Tablets came from Gates.  Phones had been tried before.  However Jobs was par excellence great at creating markets.  He was a raaaaaare guy.

I am not trying to dissuade you from your passion.  Far from it.  But as a chum of mine who has spent time creating markets said to me recently “you really need to be crazy and in it for the long-term”.  It’s amazingly hard to promote a radically different mouse-trap.

Additionally if we cast aside the modern overblown ego – most music is “variations on a theme”.  Most food is (Heston apart?) “variations on a theme”. Most plumbing is “variations on a theme”. Etc etc.

Whats my take away?

Budding entrepreneurs – don’t sit there trying to find a way of flying to Mars with feathers. Just focus on what you can do well for folks and push that.  Comparative selling is far easier than evangelical selling.

Gap finders – if you must push into white space on the map – find a simple and compelling reason for folks to follow you.  Not the 101 reasons that fascinate you.  Don’t forget that for the average buyer, well inside their own comfort zone, white space on a map is scary – “hmm this has never been done before, there must be a reason”.  And finally find a way to get your potential clients to taste your “snail porridge” 🙂


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