Zone of Impossibility: Why Entrepreneurs Should Look For Impossible Challenges

Zone of Impossibility: Why Entrepreneurs Should Look For Impossible Challenges

Exploring the Value of Pursuing Almost Impossible Ventures in Business

In the world of entrepreneurship, there is a fine line between what is considered impossible and what is almost impossible. While the former suggests an unattainable goal, the latter holds the potential for groundbreaking innovation and immense value. This article delves into the concept of the “zone of impossibility,” where entrepreneurs can find opportunities that are incredibly challenging but still within the realm of possibility. By embracing these seemingly insurmountable challenges, entrepreneurs can build great companies and drive significant change.

Breaking the Laws of Physics: The Power of Belief

The laws of physics dictate that it is impossible to see anything smaller than half the wavelength of light, regardless of the microscope’s power. However, Nobel laureates Betzig and Hell shattered this notion by developing techniques that allowed visualization beyond the limits set by physics. Their breakthrough demonstrated the power of belief and the ability to challenge what was once considered impossible. By believing in the possibility, they opened the door for further advancements in microscopy and imaging technology.

The Value of the Almost Impossible

Innovation-led companies thrive on pursuing challenges that are incredibly difficult to achieve. The harder the task, the greater the potential value. While completely impossible endeavors hold no value, ventures that are almost impossible offer a unique opportunity for growth and success. These endeavors create a “moat of defensibility,” providing a competitive advantage and establishing a strong position in the market. The graph depicting the value-impossibility curve showcases the immense potential within the zone of impossibility.

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Real-World Examples of Impossible Achievements

Google’s mapping project serves as a prime example of turning the seemingly impossible into a highly valuable product. Initially, annotating maps with additional information and street-viewing every road appeared to be an insurmountable task. However, Google’s belief in the possible led them to launch the Ground Truth initiative, successfully accomplishing what was once deemed impossible. This project became one of Google’s most valuable offerings, demonstrating the significance of pursuing almost impossible challenges.

Overcoming Perceived Impossibilities in Industries

Industries that have not faced significant competitive pressures often fall into the trap of believing that certain things are impossible. The pharmaceutical industry, for instance, has thrived despite inefficiencies due to wide profit margins. However, this mindset can hinder progress and innovation. Many pharmaceutical companies dismiss ideas as impossible simply because they have not been attempted before or lack the capabilities to execute them. By challenging such beliefs, companies can unlock new possibilities and drive industry-wide advancements.

The Role of Perception in Impossibility

Perception plays a crucial role in determining what is considered impossible. Sometimes, what appears impossible to one organization may be possible for another due to differences in talent, experience, or resources. Maverick thinkers, those unaware of perceived impossibilities, or individuals driven by necessity can transform seemingly impossible tasks into achievable goals. By challenging the status quo and embracing the unknown, these individuals can reshape industries and drive innovation.

Lessons from COVID: Overcoming Impossibilities

The COVID-19 pandemic presented numerous challenges, including the development of a vaccine within a short timeframe. The CEO of Merck initially deemed a vaccine approval in 2020 impossible, criticizing competitors who claimed otherwise. However, two vaccines were ultimately approved in 2020, highlighting the importance of challenging perceived impossibilities. Merck, a renowned vaccine developer, could have achieved the impossible but lacked the belief in its feasibility.

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Choosing Difficulty for Competitive Advantage

When faced with strategic decisions, entrepreneurs often encounter options that vary in difficulty and potential rewards. While many shy away from difficult tasks, believing they are too risky or impractical, others recognize the value of embracing challenges. Building a competitive advantage requires excelling at something that is hard to do, setting oneself apart from competitors. By choosing the path of difficulty, entrepreneurs can unlock greater rewards and establish a strong market position.


The zone of impossibility holds immense potential for entrepreneurs willing to embrace almost impossible challenges. By challenging perceived limitations and believing in the possible, entrepreneurs can drive innovation, build great companies, and reshape industries. The examples of groundbreaking achievements in various fields demonstrate the transformative power of pursuing the seemingly impossible. In the ever-changing landscape of business, it is within the zone of impossibility that the most valuable and impactful innovations are born.