Problems are a nuisance, sometimes easy to detect and solve, often not. On the other hand, they represent a source of opportunity for entrepreneurs. Discrepancies, deviations from the normal, and failure to meet expectations can reveal the existence of profitable markets that, until that moment, had remained invisible.

From the many who notice problems, few actually view them as business opportunities. Complaining is universal, but the talent to devise profitable solutions remains extraordinary. What explains that entrepreneurial skills are present in some people, but not in the rest of the population?

McDonald's founder, Ray Kroc, is the archetype of the entrepreneur who seized an opportunity based on facts that were known to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Although personal initiative plays an important role in starting up a new venture, nothing will ever happen if profitable business opportunities are not perceived in the first place.

Linking entrepreneurial vision to family background is a theory that explains some entrepreneurial careers, but many others do not follow this pattern. Business founders and talented managers come from all segments of society. In my view, entrepreneurial vision is not the result of a single factor, but a combination of three elements:

1. A CLEAR SENSE OF DIRECTION: Ambition motivates entrepreneurs more than it drives other men and women. Pursuing financial, professional, or artistic achievement with passion creates a constant sense of alertness. Once the direction is established, deficiencies and irritation do not result in paralysis, but in accelerated growth.

2. CURIOSITY AND WILLINGNESS TO LISTEN: Psychological flexibility, more than actual knowledge, frequently avoids man-made catastrophes. Entrepreneurs welcome rational criticism and use inputs to grow. They know that their individual expertise, taken in a global context, is infinitesimal. Entrepreneurs love to ask questions and are willing to listen. This is what allows them to detect opportunities that otherwise remain ignored.

3. DILIGENCE IN ACTION: Speed is an essential constituent of efficiency. In any area of human activity, few are ready to jump immediately from thought to action, from conception to implementation. One reason why entrepreneurs achieve more is simply because they try out a wider array of solutions to a problem. The quicker you are willing to start, the faster you will discover what to keep and what to discard. Action increases efficiency, which in turn breeds opportunity.

A clear sense of direction increases an individual's ability to see beyond irritation, to identify opportunities, and to build profitable solutions. If you detect a deviation from the standard, ask yourself if normality should be redefined. Examine discrepancies with curiosity and, above all, be willing to try out your ideas. If you don't push your boat away from the pier, you will have nothing to steer.