Harvard Business Review

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Finding Competitive Advantage In Adversity
by Bhaskar Chakravorti
November 2010

Counterintuitive answers, extreme problems and seemingly impossible adversity can be a crucible for creativity and innovation. Moments of crisis have historically served as a prevailing impetus for innovation. Entrepreneurs who thrive in the face of misfortune are a different kind from those who flourish when resources are infinite.

Adversity-attuned opportunities:
1: Match Unneeded Resources To Unmet Needs
Adversity constrains a key source. An opportunity emerges for inventive entrepreneurs who can redirect the redundant resources to fill the unmet needs. Ingeniously repurpose a resource made redundantly by adverse circumstances to meet a basic need that the adversity had exposed. 2: Round Up Unusual Suspects

Adversity is characterized by omitted elements at critical points in the system. Entrepreneurs who can resourcefully identify unlikely, alternative candidates are able to get a leg up. Exquisitely align remarkable suspects’ interlocking incentives. 3: Find Small Solutions To Big Problems

The more cruel the adversity, the harder it is to change the status quo. Small improvement can be huge; small solutions that fit within tiny cracks represent major opportunities. 4: Think Platform, not Just Product

A novel-risk management plan is an entire portfolio of application spin-offs targeting different markets but centered on a common core technology. Innovators resist convention and are focused on keeping the platform alive.

Crisis breeds chance. Capitalizing on adversity means finding solutions in unlikely places: (a) resources that nobody seems to need, (b) people and partners who don’t fit the usual bill, (c) elegantly small answers to big dilemmas, and (d) multidimensional dimensional platforms that transcend narrowly defined products. Triumphant innovators discover opportunity in the seemingly inopportune.

Crisis breeds opportunity. The most...
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