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 AJIBM  Vol.8 No.4 , April 2018
The Art of Capturing Opportunities —Screening Arab Social Entrepreneurs
Abstract: This paper investigates how opportunities are captured by those that bring in unique contributions to their communities. More than fifty Arab initiatives were studied to see how they started by social change entrepreneurs through capturing opportunities that came due to community needs, gaps, challenges, crisis. The study shows that even hidden opportunities can be exploited through utilising the alertness psychology of the entrepreneurs along with problem solving techniques and optimising their social capital that each opportunity brings. The originality of this work is that it shows that capturing opportunities can occur when people are more driven by values, or vision, or self-purposefulness. It is very important to all Social Change Agents and especially in developing countries/regions as the Arab World. The limitation to data screened in this study doesn’t undermine the possibility for generalising it further in different areas in the world as it carries a great development potential for our socio-economies and even to the world abundance thinking.

1. Introduction

Opportunities can be found in virtually all places. Even when undesirable situations arise, exciting opportunity may be discovered around the corner. In this paper, a journey of deep literature review would explore what have been published so far on the hypothesis of having capturing opportunity as an art more than knowledge. The hypothesis wants to see if people with exactly the same knowledge and same situation, would all notice the same opportunity.

Besides the literature review, this paper discusses the method and data collected for the sample of Arab Social Entrepreneurs and then discusses how they managed to capture the opportunities and what this could help in improving the way opportunities are captured.

This research contribution therefore is focused on the way of investigating the challenges and restrictions for both open and hidden opportunities that can be spotted by social entrepreneurs to build better socio-economic outcome and create waves of learning. A discussion on how the social challenges trigger the frontal lobe of the brain of the social entrepreneur to come with exciting insight that codifies the opportunity and how it is practically mobilised towards community development might open further psychological and behavioural economics debates and future research contributions. The research might optimise also how opportunities are linked together in a way that never can be imagined in order to help see the hidden spots. The intention here is to explore how the values and the visualisation of the social entrepreneurs would play an important role in capturing further opportunities.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Definition and Importance of Opportunity

Opportunity is defined as the potential insight for better change, or improvement that come from the actions that comes from the circumstances, or environment conditions faced [1] [2] .

Most of the contemporary opportunities definitions have come from research on entrepreneurship. Researchers on entrepreneurship have approached the concept of opportunity mainly from the perspectives such as building framework and social cognition [3] . Some researchers seen recently that the importance of entrepreneurship as a concept is not only to its business vitality, but also to the focus it creates toward opportunity discovery and exploitation [4] . Opportunity as a result of distinctive identification behaviour has been discussed by [5] [6] [7] .

Opportunity is future-oriented, bring in spirit of positivity and offer potential for personal development. Opportunities are seen by Suonpää [8] as both an entrepreneurial and socio-behavioural processes that depends on interaction with the surrounding environment.

2.2. Entrepreneurship Spirit and Opportunity

Entrepreneurship is related to human beings whose actions are related to venture creation, innovation, but mostly to the capacity for opportunity recognition and exploitation [9] .

Entrepreneurship is a process of opportunity emergence of passionate people called entrepreneurs who create new ventures based on lucrative opportunities [4] . Some researchers even believe that real opportunities come as a result of the deliberate search of those who carry the spirit of entrepreneurship through repeated search effort and or strategies [10] [11] .

2.3. Methods of Discovering and Capturing Opportunities

Capturing opportunities is considered very important for overcoming adversity and turning organisational and societies instability and failures into more flourishing stable communities.

Drucker [12] has identified seven sources of capturing opportunities such as unexpected occurrences, perception-reality incongruities, unmet process needs, changes in industry structures and markets, demographic changes, changes in public priorities, and new scientific knowledge.

Even though discovering and capturing opportunity might be a difficult task it is very important for life development. Sometimes opportunities are so powerful to the extent it wipes the complexity of any problem. Some of the opportunities changes the way we look at abilities which would shift our focus on our disabilities to possibilities.

Many studies now proven that challenging events can be source of discovering or capturing opportunities for individuals, organisations or even communities who keep their mindset open and stay focused on their abilities rather than disabilities [13] .

The other method for capturing opportunity is through opportunity centred learning which use similar techniques as problem-based learning and action learning and which was developed by Rae [1] [14] .

Suonpää [8] also proposed process flow of how opportunities are produced, operationalising from idea development till commercialisation.

Kirzner [6] saw that capturing opportunity need alert entrepreneurs that can discover the opportunities without actively searching them. Tang et al. [15] and [16] believe that this alertness capacity happens due to making judgement from evaluating information and changes in perceived profit potentials. Utilising tacit opportunities therefore depends on systematic accumulation of experience of the previous alerts as mentioned by Smith et al. [17] .

2.4. Exploiting and Mobilising Opportunities

After an opportunity is discovered, it is exploited through the field experiential implementation, if disruptive innovation techniques are followed, or through business planning, if structured implementation approach is followed as mentioned in Buheji and Ahmed [18] is a key precursor in the exploitation of opportunities where an entrepreneur utilises information and knowledge to describe an opportunity and how it is to be exploited [19] . Mitchell and Shepherd [20] argue that entrepreneurs perceive opportunities differently and then make decisions for exploiting these opportunities.

Exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities is seen by some researchers to be influenced by individual and environmental factors [21] . However, many studies show that exploiting deeper original opportunities raises from frequency of attempts and failures of the market or the field we are working with. This failure might come from different environmental or technological or market challenges and or preferences [13] [14] [21] [22] [23] .

2.5. Opportunities and Abundance Thinking

Unfortunately, even though we humans are celebrating the advances of the 21st century, still many of our societies seem to be built on a scarcity mentality. It is a mentality that tells people that there is a lack of enough for all. In this mindset opportunities are trapped and seem to be very few and far in between.

Zimmerman [24] mentioned about how the capacity for opportunities capturing is very dependent on abundance thinking. While in scarcity, opportunities can’t be even experienced. Overflowing with strong negative reactions scarcity mindset prevent discovering of opportunities. While those with abundant mindset would take the full advantage and enjoy the waves of opportunities that come on their way, along with memorable experiences.

Those with an abundant mentality believe there are plenty of opportunities in the world from everything. Their wealth comes from their ability to see both seen and hidden opportunities. Those with scarcity mentality believe that there are limited opportunities and see life in exact same patterns as raised to be [25] .

2.6. Opportunities Economic Values

Opportunities bring in differentiated economic value, or profit potential of introducing new goods, services, raw materials and organising methods [10] . Opportunity is viewed broadly as a potential for socio-economic change, where improvement can arise from action [1] .

Discovering an opportunity depends on cognitive abilities and interaction with new services, new products and ideas from external environment. It also focuses on business planning prior to the exploitation of opportunity where risks are handled by predicting the future. Therefore, opportunity outcome can be improved through developing linear planning and rational thinking over the social factors [21] [22] .

2.7. Exploiting and Monopolising the Opportunity & Role of Visualisation

Through entrepreneurs’ visualisation, resources are put to new use and new ideas are co-created with stakeholders while risks are shared [7] . Visualisation emphasises the social factors that forms and exploit opportunities and influence the learning and creativity process.

Beside from learning, visualising opportunities comes from also problem solving, the field and the feedback from mistakes done during exploration and or mobilisation stage.

Many researchers believe that only once the opportunity is visualised it can be properly exploited and monopolised. Therefore, Rae [14] seen that opportunity would flourish once its related to personal goals. Thus planning to realise the opportunity needs to be followed by action to ensure that the opportunity is fully utilised.

Here opportunity is investigated in order to be transferred to other contexts. Rae [1] sees that this happens once opportunities are related to organisations, or communities, or personal goals. In order to be effectively exploited or monopolised, opportunities should go through reflections that should be linked with aspirations and empathetic interest of those involved.

Sahlman [13] shows how opportunities is exploited or mobilised in many different forms. The exploitation might start after a good or bad experience. Or it would come from reflecting on what was wrong with what could be improved. Once problems are viewed as opportunities then we can think about different possibilities of re-engineer, or re-evaluating any things we see or observe. That time opportunities would be seen absolutely everywhere.

When an opportunity is started to be monopolised it goes through a process similar to problem solving. The target is to see or solve the dilemma of exploiting or optimising the benefit of the opportunity. Those whom are driving inner inspiration would have unique solutions of how the resources would address the opportunity. Once the opportunity is put in practice, the entrepreneur or the change agent should be ready to deal with unpredictable issues that might pop up during the implementation.

2.8. Psychology of Opportunity Capturing

Opportunities are made by the bridges as open mindset, supported with empathetic engineering and emotional intelligence. It is can be captured or created more when an emergent, opportunistic, social resilient mindset is available.

Researchers currently are developing useful measures that would help to enhance opportunity understanding through observing the conditions that influence individuals and organizations outcomes. Gaglio and Katz [5] show how opportunity identification is highly dependent on the uniqueness of the entrepreneurial behaviour and how it is likely to with a dynamics mysterious challenges or surroundings. Therefore, the psychology of an individual distinctive perceptual and information-processing found to develop the cognitive engine alertness for more opportunity identification [15] .

Gaglio [3] even seen that the psychology of entrepreneurial persistence come based on the entrepreneurs’ level of alertness. This alertness helps the entrepreneur to continue with his entrepreneurial opportunity regardless of the challenges faced. However, the level of challenges faced depends on how much the entrepreneur is perseverant prior to having selected the opportunity.

In order to synthesis the psychology of capturing an opportunity the process that happens in the mindset of the entrepreneur was drawn in detail as illustrated in Figure 1. One entrepreneur spot something unusual, or unexpected, or ambiguous their mental stimulation would start to trigger for them different

Figure 1. Psychological Stimulation as part of the process of capturing opportunities. Source: Buheji (2018).

queries such as how does this ambiguity affect the industry, or the market, or the society, or the regulations?

At this stage psychological and demographic factors that comes from the entrepreneurs experienced observation, or seen challenges and problems would interact with the market and industrial environment factors. This would alert the entrepreneurial mindset and would make it very focused on discovering and capturing the opportunity. At this point would try to exploit and mobilise the opportunity through frequency of repeated exploration and problem solving which raised the entrepreneur persistence and perseverance once the opportunity is exploited and mobilised as illustrated in Figure 1 again.

Strong evidence points to entrepreneurs’ perseverance in pursuing a particular opportunity after they have committed to it, even if it carries emotional and financial implications [23] . There are psychological clear differences between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs in here, especially in the processes of setting goals, selecting means, and evaluating progress toward goal attainment [13] . According to this perspective, goal-directed behaviour is governed by two systems: prevention system which help to build an orientation toward “oughts” and induces people to aim at avoiding mistakes by abstaining from actions that might produce negative outcomes, followed by promotion system which implies an orientation toward ideals and encourages individuals to generate and consider a larger set of alternatives, out of an eagerness to seize opportunities [24] .

Shaver and Scott [26] studied how the psychology of the entrepreneur when he/she interpret the field and the environment around them? How the opportunity identification occurs during this process of identification? These researchers found that interpretations and perceptions are influenced by the particular schema in response to a real or imagined event or stimulus. Other researchers seen that perception and interpretation are influenced also by availability of knowledge, schema accessibility, besides personal international motivation [5] .

2.9. Role of the Field in Capturing Hidden Opportunities

Hidden opportunities are opportunities that can be found inside each problem or challenge. Hidden opportunities can’t be seen due to our way of thinking and constrained mindset. For example, these opportunities could have been easily seen if people are not over focused on the problem, but rather in the opportunities that problem carries.

Most potential hidden opportunities are considered complex when it involves the public or the community change of mindset, due to the complexity of communication and the network setting. When these opportunities are viewed pragmatically, the mindset is challenged to apply the best tools to foster the transfer, receipt, and integration of the new knowledge across the network and, ultimately building long-term collaborative problem-solving capacity.

Hisaka [27] mentioned that opportunities are usually hidden inside three common problems. They are hidden in qualified leads, in investigative curious research and in prospects with personalized information. Hidden opportunities if well exploited nurture building a lasting solution. Therefore, utilising hidden opportunities can help disqualified other opportunities and the social capital. [28] [29] .

Kirzner [6] asserts that the mental representations and interpretations of entrepreneurs do indeed differ because they are driven by entrepreneurial alertness, a distinctive set of perceptual and cognitive processing skills that direct the opportunity identification process. For example, Kaish and Gilad [11] interpret this as having an aptitude to position oneself in the flow of information so that the probability of encountering opportunities without a deliberate search for a specific opportunity is maximized.

When people go to the field they would start to see that they can persist with what opportunity already exploited till they start seeing other possibilities through again planning further exploratory field visit. This gives them more perseverance that lead to another potential for new opportunity.

Figure 2 illustrated the psychological constructs of capturing opportunities in the field. Once the entrepreneur in an open and uncertain field environment he/she would start connecting opportunities of the field to the main life goals and values. The dynamic field environment creates a mental stimulation that the entrepreneur would start more curious query asking “What is going on?”. Here the expert or the mentor should facilitate the essence and the depth of field opportunities. The challenge for the entrepreneurs would be building tolerance

Figure 2. Capturing opportunities that come with the field. Source: Buheji (2018).

with the different ambiguity which leads to more mental stimulations. The entrepreneur here would try to discover and capture the opportunities whether through using incremental opportunities build up, or really turning towards breakthrough opportunity [28] [29] [30] .

Field help to bring coherence between alert and non-alert individuals as it excites them with spirit of curiosity. With varying disruptive field conditions, a distinctive set of perceptual and reasoning behaviours help to raise the abilities and behaviours of the entrepreneur to implement wise assessment of the realities and come up with most suitable initiative [6] . Kirzner [6] maintains that the crucial difference between opportunity finders can be found in their relative assessment of the market event, or the situation where they would give direct attention based on processed information and the reasoning for any specific event, whether it is real or imagined [30] .

Without going to the field, entrepreneurs would fail to identify the new entrepreneurial opportunities thus they would misjudge their market environment and the kind of behaviour demanded by the moment. Shaver and Scott [26] assert that anyone claiming an interest in the opportunity identification process would have to address the essential issues of how the market environment, i.e. the field would be represented in the minds of entrepreneurs and whether these representations differed from those of other market actors in any substantial way [28] [29] .

3. Method

A quantitative study was executed through screening conducted for more than seventy projects for the Arab Social and Positive Change Inspiring Entrepreneurs, would be called for short as Arab (SPCIE’s). The data was collected from websites and the success stories that were broadcasted as cases of positive social change the in (Zimam Almubadra) program on Al-Jazeerah Network [31] . The purpose of Arab SPCIE’s screened is to study how they as inspire entrepreneurs are capturing clear or hidden opportunities, and how these opportunities are exploited to positively change the Arab SPCIE’s communities and societies. A total of fifty cases were selected out of the total screened, since they are seen as the most unique cases that would serve communities interest. Besides the selected SPCIE’s had captured opportunities in a way that can be generalised.

In developing countries in general and specifically in the Arab World sources for opportunities literature is very scarce. The few published work is only related to business entrepreneurship and with limited work in relevance to positive change agents or inspiring people with social entrepreneurial initiatives which we referred to then in short as (SPCIE’s). Therefore, after screening the selected SPCIE’s the opportunities captured were categorised by some details about the nature of the initiative and the uniqueness of the opportunity; besides the name of the initiative and the country covered. The fifty SPCIE’s were social entrepreneurs that were unique in addressing the gap in their community with high spirit.

4. Data Collection

The data captured from the Arab SPCIE’s initiatives were tabulated in Table 1 to include the name of the initiative, the purpose of the initiative, the uniqueness of the opportunity capture, beside a reference to the country. Although the organisation of the data by country-wise might not have a significant effect, it was kept for future references of coming researchers.

5. Results

The data presented in Table 1 show that there is much consistency in the experiences of the opportunities captured by the fifty Arab SPCIEs. When one evaluates the opportunities captured and exploited, one could see that all the SPCIE’s shown high belief in the possibility of change in their communities. The third column in Table 1 shows that these activities are supported by persistence and perseverance. This is despite the differentiated physical, affective, cognitive and interpersonal states; and the varying conditions of the countries, or the community, or the type of the initiative or the opportunity discovered.

All of the projects of the Arab SPCIE’s selected carried entrepreneurial behaviours, with the intention of collaborative learning that started from the time of the idea development to its deployment in reality.

The fifty SPCIE’s found to be mostly seeking novel and creative solutions to influence their communities while addressing their needs, with minimal resources. Once their initiative started and they mobilise their initiative to the

Table 1. Opportunities captured in relevant to the initiative purpose.

field, all the SPCIE’s found to re-identify their new potential leads and trends while exploring being alert to new development opportunities. Almost half of the fifty SPCIE’s managed to bring on the field solutions through the experiential learning and their visualised values. About 70% of the projects screened used a type of marketing plan to build the social capital and partnerships, based the piloting or field study or modelling. Although many worked without a calculated risk, almost the majority of the SPCIE’s believed they can manage the risks of their initiative in order to exploit the opportunity.

6. Discussion and Conclusion

The purpose of this paper was to explore how opportunities are captured by entrepreneurs in general with more focus in the social entrepreneurs in the Arab world. Even though the projects screened show a good level of know-how and culture for opportunities capturing, the number of such independent initiative is still far from being near the accepted norm.

It is worth mentioning the results don’t show the SPCIEs have the capacity yet to deal with hidden opportunities. However, as discussed in the literature review, all these social entrepreneurs have high alertness that makes them spot clear opportunities and build around it a successful initiative that is exploited and mobilised despite the Arab cultures and environmental challenges. The literature review shows that there are still lots of gaps in the body of knowledge of how opportunities are captured and then exploited in relevance to social entrepreneurs. Geographically, one could say that there is high scarcity about how opportunities are captured in developing countries in general and in the Arab World specially. It is highly hoped that this paper has shed a small light in this part of the world.

Despite the limitations of the screened data in relevance of how capturing opportunities were developed further through problem solving, most of the initiatives activities were actually addressing problems or overcoming community specific challenges.

This paper represents and gives original contribution to the possibilities of creating more social and positive change and inspiring entrepreneurs (SPCIEs) in community if they are trained how to capture and manage opportunities. Such project would improve any country’s socio-economic status while enhancing its collaborative economy and the healthiness of its social capital status. This paper supports therefore that opportunity capturing can be taught, although it is being also an art with those SPCIEs who spot opportunities with high alertness.

This paper shows that exploring, capturing and then exploiting opportunities need to be an established practice that supports the learning environment associated with thriving community.

Despite the limitations of the data of this research for the cases screened through direct contacts, the published work through the conferences and the media, this work shows that capturing opportunities can occur when people are more driven by values, or vision, or self-purposefulness.

The researcher had to define a cutting point for amount of data collected in order to ensure the feasibility and practicality of this research. More similar data can be a source for comparative study in the future. Even though it was not explicitly mentioned in the results, the data shows that youth economy, i.e. the economy that is related to the energy and the spirit, plays a great role in mobilising the opportunities effectively and makes it more realised by the beneficiaries, regardless of their age.

Invention may involve the identification of a new idea or opportunity but it only becomes an innovation when the invention or idea is translated into a form that demonstrates its economic potential [6] .

Cite this paper: Buheji, M. (2018) The Art of Capturing Opportunities —Screening Arab Social Entrepreneurs. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, 8, 803-819. doi: 10.4236/ajibm.2018.84055.
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