Opportunity Lies in the Space Between

While watching the Giro d’italia bike race the other day, my husband made a comment on the camera angles.  He preferred the camera view from the motorcycles riding beside the peloton (main group of riders) because he could see where competitors were in relation to each other.  I preferred the bird’s-eye view from the helicopters because it showed where the gaps were among competitors and where a rider could move.  Our differing point-of-view made me think of a tip my cycling coach drilled into each of us on our team: “always scan the ground to see where the gaps are–because that’s where the opportunities are.”  Since we couldn’t ride into the space occupied by another rider without great commotion (and most likely an accident), sliding into a hole was the only way to maneuver through a moving pack.

The same is true  with companies and brands.  Always keeping an eye on the competition means that we don’t see where the gaps are in the marketplace.  Instead, we focus on whether we’re better than or worse than our competition, and try to knock them out of their position.  Instead, it would be wiser to look for the gaps where there are no competitors, and thus opportunities to be exploited.

Every profession or discipline has a name for this gap analysis:

  • In science it’s called interstitial space–it’s where the solid objects move around and perform their functions
  • In digital terms it’s called an interstitial webpage–these are the advertisements we see while a webpage is loading.  According to Wikipedia, studies have found that more people click on these interstitials than they do on banner ads
  • In art it’s called white space–where the eye can rest and take in the main points without being overwhelmed
  • In consulting it’s called a quadrant chart–where competitors are displayed on two axes with different attributes, visually showing the strengths and weaknesses of competitors and where they’re clustered relative to each other
  • In new product development, the larger the gap between the new product and all other competitors, the greater the innovation
  • In music it’s a Dave Matthews song:  The Space Between, describing a romantic relationship that beats stronger due to the distance and time apart
  • In the early days of settling the U.S., “Go West Young Man” signified wide open spaces of limitless opportunity (and hardship getting and living there)
  • You can probably name quite a few more examples of where the gaps contain greater opportunity than the known and quantified places that are already taken

It’s easier to focus on the tangible, the solids, the ideas right in front of us.  But quite often, it’s the empty spaces, the unknown territories, the gaps that provide the most opportunity. 

Have you taken a risk and explored the space between to discover a great opportunity?  I want to hear about about it!

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