Growing up in rural South Carolina, my four siblings and I would sometimes pass the time playing a game called Beetle Bug.
As games go, it was simple. When we were taking a trip someplace, or even just driving into town, one of us would invariably call out, "Who wants to play Beetle Bug?" The winner was the one who spotted the most Volkswagens.
This was my first exposure to an age-old principle: When you start paying attention to something—Volkswagens, industries facing disruption, a certain customer request for something you don't currently provide—more of them mysteriously appear.
Opportunities are like that. Often they're hidden in plain sight, just waiting for somebody like you to come along, take notice, and act on them. Innovators are great noticers. They are curious. They pay attention.
I once asked Fred Smith where he got the idea to start FedEx. He said, "I noticed businesspeople showing up at our jet refurbishment business at the Little Rock airport, asking us if they could charter one of our planes to get a package somewhere in a hurry. There was no better way for them to do it back then."
Donald Schoendorfer, an engineer with a medical technology firm in Orange County, California, noticed a man hobbling across the road in front of the tour bus he was riding in while on a church trip to Morocco. "I couldn't get it out of my mind," Schoendorfer recalled. "On this trip I had noticed a number of people ...