Opportunity development builds competitive positions by identifying and utilizing opportunities in the environment. Opportunity development is necessary because your existing positions is constantly being degraded by change. In STARS Training, opportunity development is broken down into four skills: 1) source development, 2) opportunity identification, 3) opportunity evaluation and 4) safe experimentation. These correspond to four formulas of traditional strategies Nine Formulas, Find Friends, Observe Opportunities, Recognize Restrictions, and Minimize Mistakes.
The Progress Cycle
This expansion strategy is built around a four-step process called the Progress Cycle, which is a loop of four steps, Listen-Aim-Move-Claim. Opportunity Development deals primarily with the first two of these steps, Listening and Aiming. As you master the tools related to this cycle, you find they are both both exploratory and scalable. These tools teach you to experiment safely and successfully, avoiding obstacles and managing long campaigns in small, opportunistic steps. Many of the rules of opportunity development focus on controlling the costs and risks of the experiments.
One of the fundamental rules of Sun Tzu's strategy is that you cannot create opportunities. Once you understand this, you stop beating your head against the wall trying the impossible. You see that your opportunities can only be created only by your competitive environment. You also see that those opportunities are all around you once you learn to see them.
High Probability Opportunities
Opportunities exist as "openings" in the environment that allow you to advance your position in the direction of your mission. These openings are usually small, but by taking advantage of the small openings, you eventually position yourself for the big advances you want. Sun Tzu's system of opportunity development provides a set of technical tools that allow you to identify openings that you would normally overlook.
The idea of opportunity development is to pick opportunities that have a high probability of success. The more time you spend on high-probability opportunities, the less time you will waste on low-probability efforts. Success over the long-term doesn't come from making perfect decisions about opportunities, but simply improving your decisions-making.
Completing the Cycle
Once you master this cycle, you understand why many efforts fall short. You understand that you must complete all four steps to make any advance. If any step in the Progress Cycle is missing, no advance is possible.
You develop specific skills by mastering each aspect of the Progress Cycle. Listening identifies opportunities. Aiming prioritizes these opportunities, identifying the smallest, easiest, and least costly moves that take you where you want to go. Moving teaches you how to respond appropriately to the situations as you find them. Claiming identifies the potential, boundaries, control, and the methods for utilizing a new position.
Your progress in life gains speed, power, and momentum with each successful repetition of the progress cycle. You start thinking in terms of small, daily victories. You naturally look to use small steps because they are quick and nearly impossible to oppose. You start using this model is a model both for large-scale advances, defined to as "campaigns," and for each incremental step in those campaign.
Scalability in Progress
Traditional strategy teaches that we cannot jump to the top in a single leap, at least not consistently and safely. If we want to have a high probability of success, we advance our position in small, unstoppable steps. Each step in the Progress Cycle can be broken down into any number of separate smaller progress cycles to divide and conquer. Properly used, this technique of breaking steps into parts is especially useful for overcoming obstacles. When you encounter obstacles that slow or impede your program, by mastering these techniques, you will have a number of different "edges" which you can use to either go around it or surmount it in small parts.
The most advanced tools for the last two steps in the Progress Cycle, moving and claiming, are part of the situation response school of Sun Tzu's strategy.