1) Based on the readings and your own experience, where do entrepreneurs’ find opportunities? Where should we be looking (and, maybe, how should we be looking)? 2) Consider the story of Jim Poss in the HBR article (“How Entrepreneurs Find Opportunity”) — how important is it that entrepreneurs question their assumptions?3) What do you think of the “Ice House Opportunity Discovery Canvas” and the process it describes? It is missing anything? Why do you think it places such a strong focus on talking to potential customers?
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THE ICE HOUSE OPPORTUNITY DISCOVERY PROCESS
Now that you have reached the end of lesson 2, we will introduce the Opportunity Discovery
Canvas, a tool that will guide you through the Opportunity Discovery Process. The discovery
process is iterative and problem-based, and lies at the core of understanding and applying an
entrepreneurial mindset. It is an experiential learning process designed to help you develop
entrepreneurial attitudes, behaviors and skills. You will use the canvas as a tool to go “out-of-thebuilding” and search for problem-solving opportunities throughout the remaining group application
assignments.
Problem-Based Learning
Problem-based learning is a fundamental aspect of the Opportunity Discovery Process. It is a
process in which you will learn from complex and realistic problem solving situations. Problembased learning will help develop critical thinking and effective problem solving skills. Problembased learning also encourages collaboration, intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning.
Experiential Learning
The Opportunity Discovery Process is also an experiential learning process, one that enables
you to learn from experience. It is among the most powerful tools available to help develop
entrepreneurial attitudes, behaviors and skills. Drawing from David Kolb’s experiential learning
model, the Opportunity Discovery Process immerses you in an iterative, four stage process:
1. In the “concrete experience” stage, you become aware of a problem or unmet need.
2. This awareness forms the basis for “observation and reflection” where you will have
the opportunity to observe the problem and consider what is working or failing.
3. You will then think about ways to solve the problem or improve an existing solution, a
process known as “abstract conceptualization”.
4. Facilitators will then encourage you to test your solutions through “active
experimentation” and interaction with those who may also experience the problem.
Experiential learning requires you to actively engage in the experience, and then to reflect on your
experiences so as to understand, analyze and apply new knowledge. It is an iterative, experimental
process that lies at the core of an entrepreneur’s ability to identify, evaluate and solve problems
within real-world, ambiguous circumstances.
Copyright 2014 Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, LLC All Rights Reserved
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Copyright 2014 Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, LLC All Rights Reserved
THE ICE HOUSE OPPORTUNITY DISCOVERY CANVAS
The Ice House Opportunity Discovery Canvas is a tool designed to guide you through the
Opportunity Discovery Process. Drawing on the work of Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model
Canvas, the Opportunity Discovery Canvas encourages you to think critically as you learn to
identify and solve problems within uncertain circumstances.
The Opportunity Discovery Canvas is divided into three primary sections designed to guide you
through the three distinct phases of the Opportunity Discovery Process.
Section one encourages you to focus on the problem you intend to solve. Section two encourages
you to consider possible solutions. Section three encourages you to think about how you might
connect with others who may have the problem you intend to solve.
At the end of lesson 2, you will be asked to share your problem-solving ideas with the class, and
then form into small canvas groups of 2 to 4 people based on these ideas. In your new canvas
groups, you should document your assumptions or “best guesses” by addressing the questions
within each of the canvas boxes. Once you have documented your assumptions in the appropriate
boxes, you will get out-of-the-building to test your assumptions by interviewing potential customers
and other stakeholders.
For example, after learning of a robbery at a local bank, featured Ice House
Entrepreneur David Petite envisioned a unique security device for ATM machines. As
part of his discovery process, he identified bank managers as potential customers that
he could interview as a way to determine the viability of his idea.
He also identified law enforcement officials as potential stakeholders who could help
validate the viability of his idea. Through the process of interviewing potential customers
and stakeholders, he gained the confidence to develop a prototype of his concept.
In addition to interviewing potential customers and stakeholders, you should also seek additional
knowledge through interaction with experienced entrepreneurs and subject matter experts, as well
as traditional academic research methods.
Drawing on an experiential learning model, the Opportunity Discovery Process requires you to
continuously analyze and revise your canvas assumptions based on what you are learning through
the Opportunity Discovery Process. Your canvas will constantly change during the search for a
problem-solution-connection, as your knowledge expands and your ideas continuously evolve.
Each version of the canvas will build upon previous iterations.
Copyright 2014 Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, LLC All Rights Reserved
3
Ice House Opportunity Discovery Canvas
1. Describe the problem you
want to solve.
How did you encounter this
problem or unmet need?
2. Describe the type of people
who have this problem.
Describe the people that
are most likely to have this
problem?
3. How are they currently
solving the problem?
Describe other solutions
that are currently available?
PROBLEM
Do other people have
this problem?
Why is this problem worth
solving?
4. Describe your proposed
solution.
What is the single most
important feature of your
solution?
Think about age range,
gender, areas of interest,
profession, etc.
Which of these potential
“customers” can you most
easily connect with?
5. How will your solution
be different?
Why is the current solution
inadequate?
How important is this
problem?
6. Will people pay for your
solution?
How does your idea better
than existing solutions?
Will people be willing to
pay for your solution?
Describe the key
differences?
How often will they need
your solution?
How will you know if others
value this improvement?
How will you know that
your solution is valuable
to others?
SOLUTION
What is the most effective
way to demonstrate your
idea?
How will you know if others
are interested in your
solution?
7. How will potential customers
know about your solution?
8. How will potential customers
purchase your solution?
How can you find more
people who may be
interested in your solution?
How can you make it easy
for your customers to
purchase your solution?
What methods of
communication will you
use to reach them?
For example, through a
retail store, online,
door-to-door sales, etc.
What message do you
intend to convey?
How are they currently
accessing a solution?
9. Why will potential customers
purchase your solution?
How will your customers
know they can rely on you?
CONNECTION
How will you communicate
this message explicitly?
Why is this problem worth
solving?
Sample Canvas
4
Copyright 2014 Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, LLC All Rights Reserved
NOTES
1.
What have you learned and how has your idea changed in the most recent version of your canvas?
Which of your assumptions were accurate and which of them have changed?
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
2.
What are your next action steps? Who do you still need to talk to and what knowledge gaps still
need to be filled? How can you test your assumptions in the real world with limited time, money,
and resources? How can you test your assumptions in the real world with limited time, money and
resources?
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
3.
Additional Analysis
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
Sample Notes
Copyright 2014 Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, LLC All Rights Reserved
5
Back of Canvas Analysis
The back side of each Opportunity Discovery Canvas includes a “Notes” section designed for you
to analyze and reflect on what you are learning as you complete each iteration of your canvas. The
back of the canvas includes the following questions:

What have you learned and how has your idea changed in the most recent version of
your canvas?

Which of your assumptions were accurate and which of them have changed?

What are your next action steps?

Who do you still need to talk to and what knowledge gaps still need to be filled?

How can you test your assumptions in the real world with limited time, money, and
resources?
When does the Opportunity Discovery Process end?
Generally the process ends in one of two ways: Your group decides it no longer wants to pursue a
particular solution and you begin to search for other problems to solve; or your group has validated
its concept and people are beginning to pay for your solution. The overall objective is to help you
develop effective problem-solving skills.
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Copyright 2014 Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, LLC All Rights Reserved
CANVAS IN ACTION
The following is a detailed explanation of each phase of the Opportunity Discovery Process. This
explanation includes example canvases that illustrate several iterations of the entrepreneurial
process for Jason Campbell, one of the Ice House Entrepreneurs.
Phase 1: Understanding the Problem
The first row of boxes (1 through 3) encourage you to focus on the problem you intend to solve
or the unmet need you intend to fill. These initial questions are designed to gain an “outside-in”
perspective that enables you to understand the problem through the eyes of potential customers
or stakeholders before prescribing a potential solution. While you may already have a potential
solution in mind, the emphasis here should be on accurately understanding the problem.
In addition to the primary question within each box, additional questions or suggestions are
included to help guide the inquiry and discovery process. These secondary questions are
intended merely as a guide to help you through the discovery process.
Box 1: Describe the problem you want to solve.



How did you encounter this problem or unmet need?
Do other people have this problem?
Why is this problem worth solving?
Box 2: Describe the type of people who have this problem.



Describe the people that are most likely to have this problem
Think about age range, gender, areas of interest, profession, etc.
Which of these potential “customers” can you most easily connect with?
Box 3: How are they currently solving the problem?



Describe other solutions that are currently available?
Why is the current solution inadequate?
How important is this problem?
Copyright 2014 Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, LLC All Rights Reserved
7
Ice House Opportunity Discovery Canvas
1. Describe the problem you
want to solve.
2. Describe the type of people
who have this problem.
3. How are they currently
solving the problem?
Home-builders have difficulty
maintaining clean, organized
construction sites
Smaller construction
Companies and independent
Contractor
Not sure? Maybe owners are
doing it themselves?
4. Describe your proposed
solution.
5. How will your solution
be different?
6. Will people pay for your
solution?
PROBLEM
SOLUTION
7. How will potential customers
know about your solution?
8. How will potential customers
purchase your solution?
9. Why will potential customers
purchase your solution?
CONNECTION
Example Canvas 1
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Copyright 2014 Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, LLC All Rights Reserved
NOTES
1.
What have you learned and how has your idea changed in the most recent version of your canvas?
Which of your assumptions were accurate and which of them have changed?
Not yet applicable – have not been out of building yet.
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
2.
What are your next action steps? Who do you still need to talk to and what knowledge gaps still
need to be filled? How can you test your assumptions in the real world with limited time, money,
and resources?
Speak to 5 building contractors to discuss problem, inquire about possible solu________________________________________________________________________
tions.
________________________________________________________________________
Questions: how often do sites need to be cleaned? Does cleaning require special
________________________________________________________________________
equipment like garbage dumpsters? Would I have to dispose of waste myself?
________________________________________________________________________
Talk to waste removal companies.
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
3.
Additional Analysis
Identify areas where there are construction activities. Identify people we know
________________________________________________________________________
who may own small construction companies.
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
Identify people who may work in construction industry
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
Identify people who may work in related industries like carpentry, masonry
________________________________________________________________________
work, excavation, plumbing, electricians, bankers (who work with construction
________________________________________________________________________
loans).
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
Example Notes 1
Phase 2: Finding a Solution
The second row of boxes (4 through 6) are solution-oriented questions that encourage you to
think about potential solutions, as well as the viability of your proposed solutions. You should test
your ideas by interviewing potential customers and other stakeholders who may have an interest
in solving the problem at hand. In many (if not most) cases, the original idea is likely to be flawed.
Yet, through this interactive discovery process, unforeseen obstacles, as well as unexpected
opportunities can be found.
Box 4: Describe your proposed solution.



What is the single most important feature of your solution?
What is the most effective way to demonstrate your idea?
How will you know if others are interested in your solution?
Box 5: How will your solution be different?



How does your idea better than existing solutions?
Describe the key differences.
How will you know if others value this improvement?
Box 6: Will people pay for your solution?



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Will people be willing to pay for your solution?
How often will they need your solution?
How will you know that your solution is valuable to others?
Copyright 2014 Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, LLC All Rights Reserved
Ice House Opportunity Discovery Canvas
1. Describe the problem you
want to solve.
2. Describe the type of people
who have this problem.
3. How are they currently
solving the problem?
Home-builders have difficulty
maintaining clean, organized
construction sites
Smaller construction
Companies and independent
Contractors
Very small – one-man contracting Companies not
interested.
They do it themselves
Not sure? Maybe owners are
doing it themselves?
Small contractors
doing it themselves.
4. Describe your proposed
solution.
5. How will your solution
be different?
6. Will people pay for your
solution?
PROBLEM
Reliable service
on-demand site
cleaning services
Reliable on-demand
site cleaning services
Yes – $20 per hour rate
SOLUTION
7. How will potential customers
know about your solution?
8. How will potential customers
purchase your solution?
9. Why will potential customers
purchase your solution?
CONNECTION
Example Canvas 2
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11
NOTES
1.
What have you learned and how has your idea changed in the most recent version of your canvas?
Which of your assumptions were accurate and which of them have changed?
________________________________________________________________________
Yes – construction site cleaning seems to a real problem. Owners of construction
________________________________________________________________________
companies were more helpful/open than I expected. Small companies don’t have
________________________________________________________________________
the staff, or much time to find outside help for site cleaning.
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
Construction sites almost always have garbage dumpsters on them, so this
________________________________________________________________________
shouldn’t be a problem. Sometimes I may have to arrange dumpster drop
________________________________________________________________________
off/pick up (easy to do).
2.
What are your next action steps? Who do you still need to talk to and what knowledge gaps still
need to be filled? How can you test your assumptions in the real world with limited time, money,
and resources?
________________________________________________________________________
Need to determine what specific tools …
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