The Power Of Entrepreneurial Anticipation

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Entrepreneurial anticipation is definitely a skill worth having to improve in business and life. But how can you achieve it? Read on!

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” – Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player. He was nicknamed “The Great One”, and considered by many, as the greatest and smartest player in the history of the game. His intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled. He could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be, and execute the right move, at the right time.


To anticipate is to “regard as probable; expect or predict” according to the Oxford online dictionary. Charles Schwab, an American businessman, investor and the founder of the Charles Schwab Corporation holds the view that:

“Keeping a little ahead of conditions is one of the secrets of business.”

In fact, great strategic thinkers have a gift for seeing threats and opportunities before anyone else. (5) Strategy is partly about position, with the essence being the selection of one or a series of unique competitive positions that a company can claim as its own. (2)

But most companies aren’t very good at this. When new threats or opportunities emerge on the periphery of their usual business environment, they fail to notice them or misinterpret them. Most leaders have a hard time with the weak and ambiguous signals that are often the only earning warning signs of impending change. The key to managing strategy is the ability to detect emerging patterns and help them take shape (3) and guide future action.

Entrepreneurial Anticipation

What distinguishes an entrepreneur from a non-entrepreneur is their world view. The successful entrepreneur simultaneously seeks opportunity, while taking calculated risks within an environment of continuous change. Entrepreneurial activity emphasises anticipation and the art of future exploration. (1)

The Art Of Anticipation

So how do you as an entrepreneur “master the art of anticipation”? Here are a few of the ways:

Predict and place more importance on the future, than the past.
Hence you must understand the trends shaping the competitive environment; and explore the horizon for customers, products, markets and industries that do not exist today. That way you can both position your business for opportunities, as well as exploit them.

Expect And Embrace Change.

An entrepreneur of the future must be ahead or at least in sync with the changing needs of his growing organization. You must anticipate each type of lifecycle stage and ensure that your organization evolves to meet both shifting market conditions, and internal developments and requirements.

Regard Risk As Likely And Impactful.

The people in your company must develop the ability and tools to correctly interpret risks, and determine the policies and actions which will minimize it. It is critical to anticipate discontinuities and disruptive models and to act in advance of their full impact. Anticipatory behaviour requires that you are constantly aware of what may or will happen and importantly being prepared to take appropriate action. The puck or the ball of chance waits for no-one.

Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist who was famous for his life saving discoveries of vaccination, fermentation and pasteurization once said:

“Chance favors only the prepared mind” (4)

So it should be with entrepreneurs, who need to always be “where the puck is going to be” and not ‘behind the curve’. Anticipation and pro-action keeps you ahead of the game, and I suppose, like Wayne!



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Fontela, E, Guzman, J, Pérez, M, Santos, FJ. 2006. The Art of Entrepreneurial Foresight. Management Decision.
Markides, C. 1999. All the Right Moves: A Guide to Crafting Breakthrough Strategy. Harvard Business Review Press.
Mintzberg, H. 1987. Crafting Strategy. Harvard Business Review. July-August
Pasteur, L. 1854. Lecture, University of Lille. December.
Schoemaker, P. 2012. 9 Ways to See Change Coming (Before it kills Your Business).