On a weekend, I stumbled upon an interesting article which discussed a physicist idea about the origin of life. When I decided to dig a little deeper about the origin of life and evolution, I came across an interesting term ‘opportunistic evolution.’ For me, this term was new though I have read Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The word ‘opportunistic’ often holds a negative connotation. Opportunism is defined as the conscious policy and practice of taking selfish advantage of circumstances – with little regard for principles, or with what the consequences are for others.
Plenty of examples of opportunism can be found while learning about evolution. From the hosts infected by viruses, found new uses for the genetic material the agents of disease left behind by our primitive ancestors, utilizing a sharp rock as a tool for killing. Humans are the ultimate opportunists while looking at evolution. They tend to sniff out any sort of opportunity in the environment and seize upon it. Humans are considered the most evolved species since their opportunistic bent of mind has fueled the creative powers. Humans have the practice of taking selfish advantage of circumstances for survival.
In the age of startups boom, many of the entrepreneurs are approaching the creative endeavor from a wrong end. They come up with an ambitious goal or a problem to solve and work towards achieving that goal. Looking at the history of many of the startups which are doing well, it clearly shows that the entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to go big with their solution that they had already solved.
Dropbox founder Houston developed the Dropbox concept after repeatedly forgetting his USB flash drive while he was a student at MIT. He says that existing services at the time “suffered problems with Internet latency, large files, bugs, or just made me think too much.” He began making something for his personal use but then realized that it could benefit others with the same problem. Dropbox is now valued at 10 billion dollars and headed towards becoming one of the major collaboration platforms. Can we think of this innovation as taking selfish advantage of circumstances? No. He saw an opportunity and he seized it to his advantage.
Mark Zuckerberg initially developed the Facebook as a networking site for Harvard and saw the opportunity to make it a universal website. The company went on to file an IPO in 2012 and is currently valued at 245 billion dollars.
One of the key characteristics of a successful innovator is an opportunistic mindset which would help in identifying gaps in the market. Identifying such opportunities is the heart of entrepreneurship. Hopefully, this blog post reduces some of the negative connotations held towards the term ‘opportunistic mindset’ especially when used towards creative endeavors.