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Business Design School 011— Opportunity Farming

Published 2 months ago • 23 min read

Opportunity Farming

Identifying & Framing Possibilities

Welcome back to Business Design School, a twice-monthly newsletter for the creative-business-curious. I call it a school because we’ll learn to master the art of business design, together.

First up: I’m so excited to announce that PRINT Magazine has picked up Business Design School as a regular column! PRINT honored me as one of their “Twelve Creative Voices to Follow in 2024,” and now you’ll be able to catch all my issues on printmag.com. (Of course, email subscribers will always get each issue first!) Big thanks to the team at PRINT — I'm excited for the year ahead!

In this issue: Where do opportunities come from? How do you find them? And how do you activate them? There are passive and active ways to identify opportunities and unlock them to create value.


Opportunity Farming

Identifying & Framing Possibilities

"The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity." — Peter Drucker

I realized this year that New Year's Day is one of my favorite holidays. It's kind of a funny one, isn't it? At first blush, it can seem arbitrary; it's just a day we decided would be the first day of a new year. If it falls on a Monday (like it did this year), how is that Monday different from any other Monday (except that some of us probably had the day off of work.) But there is a connection between the natural world and our history.

Ancient calendars were typically based on lunar or solar cycles. Those glowing orbs in the sky dictated much of human life as seasons and tides affected climate, fishing, and agriculture. And because their cycles repeat, our ancestors could set their proverbial watches to them to generate predictable timescales. They may not have understood the astrophysics at play, but they understood that it got dark and light again over the course of a day. They recognized the time between new moons to be around 30 days, one month. And while they didn't know the tilt of the Earth's axis and its long orbit around the sun were the cause of seasons, they knew every year it got cold and got warm again, and they celebrated the solstices, summer and winter, as critical moments in their agrarian lives.

The early Roman calendar, which influenced much of Western culture, was originally a lunar calendar with ten months and the year beginning in March. In 45 BCE, Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar, a solar calendar composed of 365 days divided into 12 months, adding January and February into the mix. But why January 1 as the start of the new year? Well, picture this: ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice as a key turning point in the year, when the days would start getting longer to welcome the upcoming spring. This period was marked by Saturnalia, a festival in mid-December honoring Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture and time. The celebration included feasting, games, and gift-giving — the Romans partied like it was 0099 (BCE). After the celebration died down and people recovered, the newly elected Roman Consuls — the two highest elected public officials of the Roman Republic — began their one-year term. That date? January 1. A new beginning, a new opportunity.

January 1 is all about opportunity. January is named after Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates, symbolizing beginnings and a fresh start. That feeling you get on January 1, like you can take on the world, you're going to go to the gym, you're going to start a business, psychologists call that the "Fresh Start Effect" — a period of increased motivation and drive for goal-setting that many people experience at the start of a new time period. The "temporal landmark" that is New Year's Day helps us navigate time and segment our experience into distinct chapters, making it easier to mentally separate our past failures or setbacks from our future intentions and opportunities.

Those Roman Consuls started the year with their ideas and ambitions as farmers of opportunity. And then, at the end of the year, they celebrated the results of their work right along with the crop farmers. Every business design project is about identifying and unlocking opportunities. As a business designer, I feel like an opportunity farmer — and the new year feels like the start of my season.

Opportunities & Where to Find Them

Opportunity is the seed of promise, of possibility. An opportunity is a set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. Opportunities are everywhere, in every size, shape, and color, just waiting to be found. Finding opportunities requires pattern recognition across human behavior, technological innovation, market dynamics, or some combination of all three. Note: I think you can create opportunities by influencing human behavior, creating breakthrough technology advancement, or changing the market dynamics — but what caused you to put your scarce resources of time, attention, and money towards making this opportunity? You first found patterns of possibility.

Pattern recognition, often likened to “connecting the dots,” is the cognitive process of identifying and understanding the regularities, structures, or relationships among data or phenomena. It involves detecting similarities, differences, and trends within complex sets of information to form meaningful insights or predictions. Our big brains are great at this! Pattern recognition allows us to recognize faces, understand language, and make decisions based on previous experiences.

Pattern recognition enables us to find opportunities by providing insights that are not immediately obvious, facilitating a deeper understanding of complex issues or environments. In business and technology, recognizing patterns can reveal market trends, consumer behaviors, operational inefficiencies, and more — offering strategic advantages and innovative opportunities. Some examples:

Impossible Foods, the producer of plant-based meat substitutes, found an opportunity by identifying emerging human behaviors and market dynamics: interest in plant-based diets and concerns over meat production's environmental impact. Coupled with their technological advancement of producing heme from plants (heme is the naturally occurring molecule that helps give meat its complex flavor), they created a juicy business opportunity.

Square, the financial services platform, found a rise in independent businesses (new human behavior creating a new market dynamic) created a gap in the market: small businesses and individual merchants who couldn't accept credit card payments. They developed a simple technological innovation, a compact, portable card reader that connects to a smartphone or tablet, leveraging mobile technology to democratize access to payment processing systems.

Slack, the digital communication platform, identified the human need to connect, with the changing human behavior toward less hierarchical workplace communication. With the advancements in cloud computing and the market gap for an efficient, always-on, real-time communication system, there was an opportunity for collaboration in the increasingly remote and distributed workplace market.

See the pattern? Human behavior, plus technological innovation, plus market dynamics.

Passive Opportunity Farming

There are both passive and active approaches to finding opportunities.

Passive opportunity farming means having a curious mindset and observational approach to life. Curiosity is a natural human trait, but like any skill, it can be nurtured and developed through practice. Fostering curiosity encourages a mindset that finds joy and value in seeking new information, experiences, and understanding.

The Finnish futurist and author Elina Hiltunen often writes about "weak signals" helping us predict and respond to the future: "Weak signals are like whispers of the future, easily drowned out by the noise of the present. Paying attention to them requires a keen ear and an open mind."

Be broadly curious about trends in human behavior, technological innovation, and generally what's happening in the market and the world. This involves absorbing content from various sources, formats, and perspectives, including books, articles, podcasts, social media, news, data, reports, and more. More importantly, it means being present, observing, and being open to life by seeking new experiences, trying new things, and connecting with people.

Going broad gives you the general context across human behavior, technology, and the market. But it's also essential to be deeply immersed in what you care about and are interested in. Be a "comb person" by going broad with your experience and deep in your interests. You're naturally going to see connections and patterns in the things you care about and between the things you care about and the broader context of what's happening in the world.

In the mid-2000s, my co-founder, Derek Cascio, and I were deeply immersed in Boston's design industry and community. We passively started recognizing patterns around us.

Human behavior: We saw that designers of all stripes wanted to connect with a broad community of multidisciplinary designers — designers were affiliating less with professional or trade organizations and more with organizations that cut across design fields. Plus there was a growing interest in the public to understand the power of design better.

Technological innovation: Social media and mobile device use was on the rise.

Market dynamics: this was during the Great Recession — there was very little funding for new ideas, but there were a lot of empty storefronts around the city that we could utilize.

The opportunity was to create a nomadic design museum that could build a broad-based community amongst designers and make design thought leadership accessible to the masses using a pop-up approach and digital/social media.

Always Be Curious

As a business designer, I’ve trained myself to look for pain points, user needs, and opportunities throughout my day. As I observe human behavior, I often ask myself questions like:

  • What would solve this person’s problem?
  • What are people doing today that’s annoying or burdensome — how could it be done differently, by technology or someone else?
  • How would someone with unlimited resources tackle this, and can I bring that solution down to earth for everyday people?
  • This company is solving this need this way; what are different/better ways to solve it?

Another fun approach is acting like a five-year-old: The “5 Whys” approach involves asking the question, “Why?” Five times (or as many times as needed) to peel away the layers of symptoms and reach the core of an issue or opportunity. For example, let’s pretend we’re looking for opportunities related to declines in user engagement on our mobile app:

  1. Why is our mobile app experiencing declining user engagement? Because users are spending less time on the app than they used to.
  2. Why are they spending less time on the app? (After some user research.) Because the content doesn’t seem relevant or engaging to them anymore.
  3. Why does the content not seem relevant or engaging anymore? Because the app’s content recommendation algorithm still needs to be updated to reflect changes in user preferences or trends.
  4. Why hasn’t the content recommendation algorithm been updated? Because our team needs to gain the latest data science and machine learning skills to improve the algorithm effectively.
  5. Why does our team need to gain these skills? Because we have yet to provide ongoing training for our team or hire new talent with this expertise.

Questions become opportunities, which become more questions, which become more opportunities, in a double helix of wondrous curiosity and possibility.


The most crucial activity you can do while passively farming opportunities is to capture your observations, thoughts, and ideas. I like to write — ever since I was a kid, I've journaled my ideas. When I was 13, I had a notebook called my "Book of Ideas." I was immersed in everything a teenager loves: video games, movies, and sports, so I wrote down all my ideas about those things. I still do it today, just not in a spiral-bound book (my 13-year-old self would have loved to have an iPad).

An approach I like is free writing or free sketching. I take a large sheet of paper (or, again, my iPad) and start writing and sketching whatever comes to mind about an idea, observation, or topic. It's about getting things out of my head so I can react to them. Another approach I probably don't use enough is mind mapping — you can do this with several tools, including paper and pen (it's straightforward in Mural, Miro, or FigJam). You start with a central idea, subject, or problem you're exploring — write it in the center of the page and circle it. Then start building branches off it — you'll begin making connections and drawing out the patterns.

Passive Example

For a while, I thought I might build my next startup in the short-form audio social media space (who knows, maybe I still will!). The opportunity grew in my mind as I passively immersed myself in the things that interest me and that I'm passionate about. I started to pick up weak signals and recognize potential patterns.

First, I love audio. I grew up listening to the radio; for a long while, I was addicted to NPR talk radio, and I adore podcasts and audiobooks. I hosted the Design Museum podcast, Design is Everywhere, for about two years, and we built it into one of the top design podcasts in the U.S. Our excellent producer, Amor Yates (who now works for Audible), said it best: audio is the most intimate form of content. Someone's voice enters your mind, and in doing so, you connect to their thoughts and ideas.

When COVID hit the world, an interesting new social app emerged. Clubhouse, the audio-based social networking app, was founded by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth in 2020. The idea for Clubhouse emerged from the founders' interest in creating a more engaging and personal way for people to connect online. They saw an opportunity in voice as a medium — believing it to be more intimate and expressive than text or images — for people to share ideas, stories, and experiences. The platform envisioned a space where people could gather to talk, listen, and learn from each other in real time without the need to type or be on camera. The platform quickly garnered attention for its unique approach to social media, focusing on voice chat rooms that allow people to discuss various topics in real-time.

I quickly signed up — this was a chance to connect with people while practicing social distancing during the pandemic. And I really wanted to like it. I just found that I didn't. When I reflected on it, for me, it was the real-time nature of the platform. You joined a session, and people were talking live — participating was hard for me; I was either working or had a crying child in my arms. I like the asynchronousity of social platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn.

Another signal: one of my colleagues at the museum at the time, the amazing Jocelyn Rice, started sending me audio messages on Slack. Our team used Slack religiously to send quick (and some not-so-quick) text-based messages throughout the day. Jocelyn began to use the audio functionality, recording short messages instead of typing them out. I found myself really enjoying this kind of asynchronous communication — I got so much more of her meaning, emotion, and message through audio. I started to respond with audio as well — it was really nice!

It all got me thinking: was there an opportunity for a short-form audio social media platform with a different approach?

Active Opportunity Farming

Of course, you can actively seek patterns and, therefore, actively farm opportunities. Indeed, business designers are often called upon to identify opportunities within a company or industry that lead to creating new ventures or improving existing initiatives.

To take a more direct approach to finding opportunities, I always start by researching and generating an ecosystem map. An ecosystem map visualizes the various elements and actors within a business or market ecosystem, including their interrelationships and interactions. This tool is instrumental for companies to comprehensively understand their operating environment, identify potential opportunities for collaboration or innovation, and recognize the dynamics that could impact their strategy and operations.

An ecosystem map goes beyond the immediate stakeholders of a company to include a broader range of components such as competitors, suppliers, customers, regulatory bodies, technology platforms, and other relevant entities. But note, if you're looking for patterns and opportunities within a single company, you might zoom in to analyze connections and relationships between specific users and stakeholders; it's all about altitude of focus.

An ecosystem map for the social audio space might look something like this. By mapping this out, we can see strategic opportunities (or threats) and uncover opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and new value propositions.

This map helps guide a deep literature and data review, which means absorbing as much content as possible across all sources (books, articles, podcasts, data, trend reports, competitive insights, etc.) related to the actors, industries, and influencers in this ecosystem and who affect this ecosystem. In my content review, I found many articles about the coming wave of social audio startups, combined with an equal array of content about how social audio will never catch on. The big players, like Twitter (now X) and Facebook, were trying to recreate the magic of Clubhouse on their platforms, while up-and-comers were attempting to create "the Twitter of social audio." In parallel, long-form social audio — podcasting — was exploding. According to Marie Charlotte Götting, a research expert on audio media, in 2006, only 22% of the U.S. adult population was aware of podcasting. By 2022, that figure had risen to 79%. Over 82 million people listened to podcasts in 2021, and that number is likely closer to 100 million in 2024.

In addition to diving into literature and data, you always want to immerse yourself in the space as much as possible — these steps can happen in parallel. Experience things yourself where possible and talk to people to learn about their experiences, needs, and desires. In the case of social audio, this meant downloading the various existing apps from established tech companies and startups and trying them out myself. I tried apps like Clubhouse, which focused on real-time discussion; apps like Riffr, which focused on folks posting short audio clips; and apps like Cappuccino.fm, which is all about staying connected to people you know. I also spoke to people who use these apps or who make and listen to podcasts and other audio content. It's a lot of information to take in, so again, to make sense of it all, I recommend keeping a journal of observations, user pain points, and glimmers of opportunity.

Personas & Jobs to Be Done

Journalling is excellent for making sense of your immersion work (essential, in my opinion) — there are also more structured approaches. After talking to enough people within the ecosystem, you could build a persona(s). Personas are semi-functional characters representing a key segment of a business’s intended audience. It’s a detailed profile that embodies a larger group’s characteristics, needs, goals, and behavior patterns.

Personas are created through research and analysis of the business’ actual or potential customers and are used to make the design, marketing, product development, and strategic decisions more customer-centric. Persona profiles should include demographic (age, occupation, education, etc.) and psychographic information (interests, hobbies, values, lifestyle choices, and behaviors), as well as goals, motivation, pain points, and challenges.

While personas are a widely used tool in business design, they have also faced criticism and challenges regarding their creation and application. Personas can oversimplify and generalize complex user behaviors and motivations, leading to stereotypes rather than accurate representations. This oversimplification can result in designs that only partially meet the nuanced needs of the actual user base. If personas are created based on limited or biased data, they may not accurately reflect the intended audience. The risk is higher when personas are based more on assumptions or secondary research than on thorough, direct user research. And design teams might fall into the trap of confirmation bias, where they use personas to validate their pre-existing beliefs and assumptions rather than challenge them. Incomplete personas can limit innovation and the exploration of diverse user needs. They’re a good tool that must complement other research and design methods to ensure a more holistic understanding of the user experience.

To that end, I like to combine personas with the deep immersion I discussed before, plus the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework — an approach to understanding customers’ underlying needs and motivations. Business consultant Clayton Christensen popularized the framework; he suggested that products and services should be developed based on the “jobs” customers are trying to get done in their lives rather than solely focusing on the customers’ demographic characteristics or product attributes. A “job” in this context is essentially progress that a customer is trying to make in a particular circumstance, which includes solving problems, fulfilling needs, or achieving goals. Here is how to apply the JTBD framework:

  1. Identify the Job(s): The first step is defining the job the customer is trying to complete. This involves understanding the task, the desired outcome, and the job’s context.
  2. Understand the Customer’s Context: Delve into the specific circumstances that affect how the job is done, including pain points and obstacles that customers face.
  3. Segment by Job, Not Demographics: Traditional market segmentation often focuses on demographics or product categories. JTBD requires segmenting the market based on the jobs customers are trying to accomplish.
  4. Focus on Job Satisfaction: Investigating how well current solutions in the market satisfy the job and identifying improvement areas can reveal innovation opportunities.
  5. Develop Solutions: Design your product or service to address the job effectively, ensuring that it can be done more efficiently, effectively, or satisfyingly than existing solutions.

From my immersion and user interviews, I created some personas for the social audio opportunity I was developing, along with some of their jobs to be done:

Sketching for Opportunity Finding

There’s a misconception that design is a linear process — it’s not. Again, you can immerse yourself in existing experiences, talk to customers, and sketch ideas in parallel. For my process, each activity feeds the other. Based on my research and immersion, an opportunity was taking shape in the social audio project, mainly because I felt no one had quite figured out how to unlock short-form audio on a social platform — something was missing.

My hunch was that “missing something” was the “blank page” problem. This is a challenge writers, artists, designers, and other creative professionals often encounter — it refers to the challenge of starting a new project or piece of work from scratch. Facing a blank page — whether it’s a literal sheet of paper, a blank document on a computer screen, or any starting point without pre-existing content — can be daunting and lead to feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and creative block.

I found that when using social audio apps, I suffered from the “blank page” problem — or maybe it was the “blank microphone” problem. I’d tap record, and I just didn’t know what to say. The absence of constraints or directions and the sheer number of potential starting points and directions were overwhelming, leading me to freeze up. I felt this pressure to produce something meaningful from the outset, which made it difficult to make the first move. With traditional text and image social media, you can write a draft, look at it, edit it, and improve it — that’s more difficult with audio.

But how do we overcome this challenge in audio content creation? Well, as a business designer, I often feel the “blank page” problem — I push past it by having a process, just starting anywhere, or using prompts. So that got me thinking about this opportunity: What if there was a social audio platform with a prompt?

I started sketching an idea for an app I called StoryRoll — the prompt was to tell a short story (around 5 minutes max) with a beginning, middle, and end. I love stories; they’re how humans best communicate — I thought it might be cool to sit back and listen to a few short, 5-minute stories when I had a little downtime. As a content creator, I felt I could write short stories, edit them in text form, and then record them.

There’s nothing like sketching your ideas to get them out of your head so you can react to them and show them to others to get their reactions. When I looked at StoryRoll and chatted about it with others, it still didn’t go far enough to address the “blank microphone” problem. So I started pushing on that; what if when you opened the app, the prompt was the first thing you saw, and to interact, you needed to address the prompt? And what are the best prompts? Questions! What if there was a social audio platform all about answering questions and hearing others’ responses to those questions?

I started sketching an idea I called HeyQ, a social audio app that asks the entire user base one question per day. Users answer the question with a short audio message (1-3 minutes), and the answers of all users show up on the main feed — you could also follow people to curate your feed of users’ responses. Every day, HeyQ would curate answers to that day’s question and produce a short podcast (around 30 minutes) with some notable responses, as well as generate your own personalized podcast featuring responses from the folks you follow. The next day, a new question to respond to would pop up, creating a core loop of engagement.

Framing Opportunities

Once you’ve found your opportunity(s) — what’s next? I find it essential to translate opportunities into something useful and actionable for myself or others if I’m working with a team. Framing opportunities is crucial for aligning and directing the efforts of individuals or teams towards areas that hold significant potential for value creation. There are several ways to do this.

How Might We? “How might we…?” (HMW) questions are open-ended questions crafted to initiate brainstorming and ideation, encouraging creative thinking and exploring possible solutions to a design challenge or problem. The structure of HMW questions is deliberately optimistic and inclusive, suggesting that solutions are possible and that the team can find them together. This approach helps to shift the mindset from focusing on obstacles to exploring opportunities. Example:

“How might we design a social platform user experience to maximize participation and ensure users feel a strong sense of community and belonging while making it easy and intuitive for new users to start contributing?”

Problem Statement. You can create a problem statement — a clear and concise description of an issue to be addressed or solved. Typically, it outlines the gap between the current and desired states, identifying the obstacles preventing reaching the goal. A well-crafted problem statement includes the problem’s context, its impact, and the specific needs that are not being met. In business, problem statements initiate projects, guide research, and focus development efforts. For the short-form audio opportunity, it could look something like this:

Digital audio platforms struggle to foster genuine connections, with users often facing the “blank microphone” problem, inhibiting authentic audio expression and interaction. This challenge is magnified by text-based social media’s inability to convey true emotion, leaving a gap for a platform that simplifies audio content creation and encourages meaningful dialogue without the pressure of perfection.

Opportunity Statement. You could write an opportunity statement focusing on the potential for improvement, growth, or innovation arising from a problem or market need. It shifts the perspective from what is wrong to what could happen by addressing the issue. Opportunity statements are forward-looking — they inspire imagination and creative thinking. They frame the problem as a chance to develop new solutions, enter new markets, improve customer experiences, or gain competitive advantages. For the social audio opportunity I focused on, that might look something like this:

We can address the “blank microphone” challenge by designing an experience that provides daily prompts that ease users into creating and sharing audio content, breaking down barriers to authentic expression. This strategy enriches social interaction with the depth of voice. It builds a community around shared stories and perspectives, redefining user engagement through a unique blend of user-generated content and curated podcasts.

Human Phenomena. I learned this one from my colleague Marc Priddy. Reframing an opportunity into simple human phenomena language means translating business or technical jargon into relatable, everyday terms that highlight the underlying human experiences, needs, or behaviors the opportunity addresses. Something like this:

Our platform must tap into the fundamental human desire for connection, storytelling, and understanding through the power of voice.

Truth. Assumption. Hope. This framework allows for a structured exploration of the underlying beliefs, desired outcomes, and realities that shape the potential success of the opportunity at hand:

Truth: The increasing popularity of audio content and podcasting, combined with a growing desire for authentic connection and expression, suggests a significant opportunity for social audio platforms. The truth is that people crave connections that feel real and personal, and audio offers a uniquely intimate medium to achieve this. The success of similar platforms indicates a market readiness for innovative approaches to social media and content consumption.
Assumption: People are seeking more meaningful and engaging ways to connect with others beyond traditional social media platforms. They prefer interactive content that allows for personal expression and the sharing of diverse perspectives, yet they often encounter barriers to content creation, such as the “blank microphone” problem.
Hope: By providing a platform that prompts users with daily questions, we hope to lower these barriers, encouraging more users to share their voices. The platform aims to foster a sense of community and belonging by aggregating these audio responses into daily podcasts, making users feel heard and connected. There’s an expectation that this format will enrich the social media landscape with deeper, more meaningful interactions and offer users a new way to engage with personal and community content.

Opportunity Triangle. We can use the opportunity triangle, discussed earlier, that aids in analyzing patterns across the interplay between three critical factors: human behavior, technological innovation, and market dynamics. At the heart of the triangle is the opportunity. Example:

Human Behavior: There's a growing desire for more authentic, meaningful social interactions online. People are looking for new ways to express themselves and connect with others beyond traditional text-based social media, indicating a shift towards more personal and engaging content consumption and creation.
Technological Innovation: Advances in mobile technology, audio recording, and streaming have made it easier than ever for users to create and consume audio content. This technological progress supports the development of new social audio platforms, which rely on user-generated audio content.
Market Dynamics: The increasing popularity of podcasts and audio content, combined with the saturation of text and video-based social networks, creates a market ripe for innovative audio-based social platforms. There's a window for new entrants that differentiate themselves through unique features.

Project Brief. Lastly, a project brief can contain any of the above opportunity framings, and serves to outline the essential details of an opportunity-unlocking project before it begins. It serves as a roadmap for the project, providing a clear overview of its objectives, scope, assumptions, timeline, deliverables, and key stakeholders. The top ten elements of an effective project brief:

  1. Project Overview: A summary of the project’s background, purpose, and justification, explaining why the project is happening.
  2. Objectives: Clear, measurable goals that the project aims to achieve, aligning with the broader business objectives.
  3. Scope: Defines what is included and excluded from the project, detailing the boundaries and limitations to manage expectations.
  4. Deliverables: A list of the specific outputs or outcomes the project will produce, including any products, services, or reports.
  5. Timeline: An estimated schedule for the project, highlighting key milestones, deadlines, and phases.
  6. Budget: An overview of the project’s financial resources, including estimated costs and budget constraints.
  7. Stakeholders: Identification of all parties involved or affected by the project, including team members, clients, and end-users.
  8. Assumptions and Risks: Any assumptions made during the planning phase, potential risks that could impact the project, and mitigation strategies.
  9. Requirements: Specific technical, functional, or operational requirements that the project must meet.
  10. Approval Process: Details on how and when the project’s deliverables will be reviewed and approved, including key decision points.

I started my career as an industrial designer, and my tools and methods helped me shape physical forms to be beautiful and useful to people. As a business designer, my tools and methods help shape strategic direction, which means using language and visual frameworks to convey and communicate my ideas. Words matter. When you frame your opportunities, you’ll be doing the vital work of transforming your insights and challenges into clearly defined areas for innovation that align with business goals and, therefore, communicate clear, focused, and strategic objectives for you and your team to unlock and activate the opportunities you find.

Let the season of opportunity farming begin!


Before I go: If you're curious, I prototyped the HeyQ social audio app to take the concept further. Will I pursue this opportunity? I'm not sure. However, it was an interesting side project to push my thinking on opportunity identification and activation. Check out the demo here, and let me know what you think.

And I'd love to hear what you think about this approach to opportunity farming and framing! You can simply reply to this email with your thoughts.

If you enjoyed this issue of Business Design School, please share the love on LinkedIn or forward this email to folks you think might enjoy it as well.

Have a great week! Talk soon!

— Sam

Sam Aquillano is a business design leader and author. In 2009 he founded Design Museum Everywhere, an online, nomadic museum with the mission to bring the transformative power of design everywhere. His new book, Adventures in Disruption: How to Start, Survive, and Succeed as a Creative Entrepreneur, chronicles his team’s startup journey and is available on Amazon, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble. He's now a Design Director leading business design at Edward Jones. Sam has earned numerous awards for his work, including the Red Dot Design Award, Graphic Design USA’s Responsible Designers to Watch, and Fatherly named him one of the Coolest Dads in America.

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Business Design School

Sam Aquillano

A twice-monthly newsletter for the creative-business-curious. I call it a school because we’ll learn to master the art of business design together. We’ll explore creative entrepreneurship and leadership, how to design things like culture and operations, and consider ways to accelerate business success and impact by design.Sam Aquillano is a business designer and writer. In 2009 he founded Design Museum Everywhere, an online, nomadic museum with the mission to bring the transformative power of design everywhere. His new book, Adventures in Disruption: How to Start, Survive, and Succeed as a Creative Entrepreneur, chronicles his team’s startup journey and is available on Amazon, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and more. samaquillano.com

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