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Still Paddling

 Aug 13, 2019 8:00 AM
by Helen Spence

Every summer for the past 21 years the same group of “wild” women has gotten together for an annual canoe outing in Algonquin Park. We started this tradition in our 50s and have continued well into our 70s. Our intention is to keep on canoeing until we can’t. 

If you ask any of us if we consider ourselves to be old, I can assure you that the answer will be a firm “no”. 

Granted, many of us have replaced knees, hips and other body parts and we have modified our portage lengths considerably, but we have never considered giving up our annual summer event. In fact, if anything, we gather more frequently during the other three seasons, allegedly planning our next adventure, but actually celebrating the friendship and the fact that we can still paddle.

Are we crazy or foolhardy? I don’t think so. We don’t take any major risks and we adapt our portaging strategy to how much weight we can carry for the distance. Those who are truly fit return multiple times to bring our belongings to the next lake or river entry. We may not enjoy the mosquitoes and deer flies that buzz around us when both hands are occupied carrying packs, paddles and canoes, but we suck it up and depend on “After Bite” when we fall into our tents at night.

Tents! Herein lies the biggest challenge---getting into and out of a tent at any time of day is a nuisance, but going out at night to the kaibo is definitely awkward. Climbing over one or more tent mates to get out for a midnight pee is an endurance test. Can I hold on for one more hour or do I really have to go now?  

And yet it’s the simple things that have created lasting memories for us.  Sometimes we spot a moose in the marsh ahead or see a great blue heron take off.  Sometimes we find the perfect rock for our sunset drinks and find two camping sites that are adjacent to one another so that we can tell stories and laugh til we cry.

 So, no, when we are on these trips, we don’t think of ourselves as old. The word refers to a chronological number that doesn’t reflect the way we feel. We know we are privileged to be financially and physically able to still enjoy canoeing, but the things that keep us all feeling more youthful are things that anyone can do regardless of age. 

All the research points to how longevity and quality of life increases if the following can become components of your life: 

  • Push yourself outside your comfort zone from time to time. It helps with perspective taking and valuing what you do have.
  • Be grateful that you can physically take part in activity. Optimism promotes well-being.
  • Learn. Develop new skills and abilities (reading maps, j-stroke, gain an understanding of the flora and fauna of the environment, etc.).
  • Incorporate physical activity and nutritious meals into your lifestyle. Good health depends on it. 
  • Seek social interaction. Isolation and loneliness have been found to bring on early death.
  • De-stress. 

Our annual event touches on every one of these and the whole experience is best summarized by the following, written by one of our crew.  While I love the physical challenge and proving to ourselves that we still have it in us, I probably love the camaraderie more. The humour, the interesting discussions and the outright silliness from time to time are the best. You don’t have to be chronologically young to be silly, but you do have to push yourself into new situations to learn, grow and enrich your life.

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Three Ways Summer Can Be Good For Business

 Jul 22, 2019 10:00 AM
by Debra Yearwood

In the bustle of the regular business year it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of building strong team relations and thinking strategically. The summer time or any slow season is a great time to make a dedicated effort to build bonds and ensure your team is in synch. The following ideas provide just some of the ways you can build stronger ties in the warmth of the summer.
Introduce More Flexibility To Employee Schedules
With a slower schedule and holidays running interference with regular activities, why not use the opportunity to give employees a more flexible schedule? Long winter hours can be recouped with shorter summer weeks. Leaving early on Fridays, late start Mondays, or no show Mondays or Fridays, is one simple way to reward employees and is a popular move regardless of age.
Get Together With Staff More Often
It’s hard to break down barriers when you don’t spend time together. The summer is a great time to coordinate group activities. Consider building an employee garden, exploring employee creativity with a workshop, or plan a field trip (picnic, trip to the gallery, hike). Whatever you decide, make sure the activity is appropriate for all participants. A strenuous hike is only fun if everyone is fit enough to enjoy it, and a gallery tour will only work if everyone has the focus required to pay attention. Be sure to mix people up so you don’t have the same old cliques reasserting themselves.
Get Strategic With Employees
Summer is also a great time to reflect on activities to date and begin the planning process for the year ahead.  Before vacation times start to play havoc with the schedule, have a planning meeting that captures what has already happened and the direction you want to go.  Once objectives are set, give employees the summer to consider next steps and their recommended plan of action. Another meeting can be scheduled for the fall to hear their ideas. This will give employees time to research options and develop tactics to achieve goals.
Progressive businesses and organizations take advantage of the slower pace that comes with summer. It’s an excellent way to build group cohesiveness.
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Employers, Human Resources  

Intergenerational Shift

 May 31, 2019 1:00 PM
by Helen Spence

I am, and always have been, positive about intergenerational connections, collaboration, living, learning, working, etc. A big component of our business is about helping organizations take advantage of their multi-generational workforces by turning them into productive, intergenerational teams. What I find disheartening is that we need a national day (Intergenerational Day) dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of connecting across generations. 

As a culture, we have become so age-siloed (new word) that we typically don’t have as many connections with those who are differently aged as us. In fact, some research shows that cities are becoming divided by age. It’s a strange evolution of behaviour when you consider that grandparents today are spending far more time with grandchildren than previous generations. Could it be because grandparents are living longer, healthier lives?

The American Association for Retired People (AARP) also has research to show that grandparents contribute quite a bit financially to their grandchildren. The multigenerational divide seems to happen when we move beyond familial relationships and the generations in between. 

The problem doesn’t belong to any one generation. We have all grown up in a youth-obsessed culture where the experience and wisdom of an older generation aren’t valued and where media and tv images of the young reign supreme. These images accentuate the advantages of being young and youthful and view ageing as a disease to be conquered.

There is, however, a shift in the media industry; a slow and steady shift that is moving towards representing an older demographic in more positive ways. It makes sense. After all, which generation dominates demographically and which generation holds the purse strings? 

When working recently with a youth council in Kuujjuaq, the youth invited an “elder” as a full participant of the group. It was unheard of to not to do so. When questions arose, young people often turned to the elder to ask for their advice. It was natural and normal, respectful with the understanding that longer life means more experience. This belief is venerated in many indigenous cultures. When did we (westerners) begin to move away from seeing experience as an advantage?

Research has proven that children who have had exposure to grandparents and other older relatives tend to have a more favourable view of ageing than those who had little connection with older adults. Other findings show: involved grandparents remain more mentally sharp; grandchildren learn first-hand the historical perspective about how things worked and how lives were lived in the past; and both older and younger benefit from more stable, emotional relationships with reduced depressive symptoms. Intergenerational relationships are a win-win in the personal and professional realms. It’s a shame these realities are not as well-known or recognized as they might be.

Interestingly, the Encore movement in the US has been focused on these intergenerational relationships for many years. The interventions of older adults as volunteers in the lives of younger school children has been proven to show positive gains for kids academically and behaviorally. For older adults, these connections have given them purpose and meaning.

Intergenerational Day in Canada is a novelty but it might encourage future positive interactions among all generations. I am genuinely looking forward to participating with Connected Canadians at Qlik from 10-12 on Saturday, June 1st. If you are interested in learning some digital literacy skills or finding out about the Top Sixty Over Sixty, join us from 10-12 at Qlik, 290 March Road, Kanata. Bring your digital devices to get the help you need and check out the iGen events portal to find other interesting opportunities.  

I hope these new intergenerational interactions will provide the impetus to value all generations more equitably.

Ageism, Employers, Human Resources  

Boomer Business is Booming

 May 3, 2019 3:00 PM
by Helen Spence

If there is one thing I took away from the Aging in America conference and the Boomer Business Summit in New Orleans mid-April, it’s that Boomers are benefitting from the “longevity dividend” (the economic benefit of older adults remaining active in society).  They are demanding new ways of doing business, new ways to finance projects, new amenities and homes, new needs for transportation, new ageing in place services and the list goes on. This provides unique opportunities for Boomers to stay in the business game and/or become entrepreneurs.

Although these statistics are from the US, there is a parallel to Canada.  In 2017, Americans 55 and older contributed $78 billion in economic benefits; those 50 and over averaged $100 billion in charitable contributions according to the Gerontological Society of America (2018), “Longevity economics: Leveraging the advantages of an aging society”). The article also goes on to say that the “largest wealth transfer in American History” will take place between 2007 and 2061 amounting to $58.1 trillion.

This provides a compelling argument to keep older adults active and engaged and also to consult, work and play with them. They are definitely an audience that requires attention and they are still the largest cohort of voters!

But back to the conference. There were numerous presentations on caregiving, financial planning for seniors, elder fraud and abuse, policy conversations, the implications of loneliness and isolation, family and medical leaves. The sessions I chose to attend had more to do with the areas of interest to me and the Top Sixty---what is happening in the world of work for older adults. How are they being accommodated in the new age wave? Unfortunately, there were fewer of these sessions than I would have liked. Ageism was rarely touched upon. There was, however, an acknowledgement by Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Foundation, in her rousing call to action to combat ageism in the workplace which kicked off the conference. This appears to be an area for advocacy by both the AARP and its foundation.

The Boomer Business Summit was clearly focused on building a rich economy for and with Boomers. Mary Furlong and her associate, Lori Bitter, operate a well-oiled machine. The summit was well attended by exhibitors and participants and the sessions were oriented to launching and running a business. There were pitches, speakers and panels.

One excellent panel highlighted how to get into the new economy and stay there.  Examples were given by Kerry Hannon, a Next Avenue blogger, and author of Never too old to get rich: entrepreneurs in midlife, a book that will appear in June, 2019. She interviewed 20 midlifers who started businesses. From their stories, she pulls out common themes and presents what is needed to be successful.

Chip Conley, known for having been hired by the two young Air BnB cofounders to turn their business around, presented about his new creation, the Modern Elder Academy. He also provided some interesting stats about the workforce in the US today. Apparently, 38% of Americans have a boss that is younger than they are and by 2025, more than 50% of the working population will have to report to someone younger. He is an ardent advocate for mentorship and posited that 75% of Millennials say they’d like to have a mentor. According to his statistics, with a mentor 25% of Millennials will remain in their jobs for 5 years or longer.

The final speaker on this panel was Sharon Emek who described how she launched and grew her business, WAHVE (Work at Home Vintage Experts), from a very small company to one that is thriving and going international. WAHVE matches people over 50 who want to work from home, either part-time or full-time, with businesses who require experts in areas such as insurance, human resources and accounting. The companies have no idea how old her clients are and find their newly engaged employees as productive, tech-savvy and as fast as other employees, thereby disproving the common myths that older adults are less capable and less productive.

Every presentation or panel had inspiring messages. Charlotte Yeh, the Chief Medical Officer for AARP Services was passionate about disrupting ageing. She believes that we are changing what it means to be old and there’s a need for the narrative to change too. Her nuggets of wisdom are perfect. According to Charlotte, we need to change “senior moment to senior momentum” and instead of “ageing in place” we need to “thrive in motion”. Her message certainly resonates with our philosophy and the Top Sixty’s ambition to help older adults re-think their futures to include purpose, possibility and engagement with others.

Ageing Well, Entrepreneurs  

The Boom in Boomer Business

 Mar 20, 2019 8:00 AM
by Helen Spence

Boomers are a new breed of older adults. They don’t conform to old stereotypes. For many, the word “retirement” is not in their vocabulary. They are living longer, healthier lives and their interests are as expansive as ever. They are learning new skills, going back to school, becoming entrepreneurs, re-entering the workforce and exploring new hobbies and volunteer opportunities.

When Boomers disappear, they will be replaced by the next wave of older adults who will live even longer. Life in the older lane is accelerating with the older Canadian population increasing annually for decades to come. This opens up opportunity on many fronts.

A whole new economy, the longevity economy, is out there. It views ageing and older adults as a growth area for future business.

When you think about it, it's obvious that a world that is ageing requires a host of different options than the world that we've known to date. Youth has been the driver for generations and it is gradually shifting. Hallelujah! The world is catching up. The premise of the Top Sixty Over Sixty--bringing attention to the potential and capacity of older adults to add meaningfully to the economy and society--is catching on.

In April I will be attending the "What's Next Boomer Business Summit". It is the 16th annual summit but until recently I was unaware of its existence. It is where industry and Boomer marketing experts converge--- and I will be attending, gathering ideas, networking, bringing back ideas to share with you.

I mention it here for those of you who are considering your next venture and are looking for ideas and inspiration. There will be hundreds attending and over 45 speakers. The conference is dedicated to a better understanding of the Boomer marketplace which certainly works well for me and the Top Sixty Over Sixty.

Now that I've whet your appetite, might you consider attending? Please let me know.

Photo by Richard Balog on Unsplash


Ageing Well, Entrepreneurs  

Who Me, Biased?

 Feb 13, 2019 10:00 AM
by Helen Spence

I wonder if any of you caught David Wimsett’s powerful essay on CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition with Michael Enright on January 25th?  It was entitled, “64 and unemployed: One man's struggle to be taken seriously as a job applicant”.  If you did, I hope you were as upset as I was. Hearing this man’s story was the epitome of what so many older adults experience and yet few people call out. His story reveals blatant ageism, the one remaining “ism” that hasn’t yet been addressed and will affect us all one day if we live long enough.

In brief, David is a 64 year old experienced and qualified man who has had a stellar employment record for 4 decades. He spends days and nights crafting his cover letters and resumes to meet the criteria of the job for which he is applying and he sometimes gets called in for an interview. Then, the shattering experience follows. No one says anything about his age or his experience but there is always an “acceptable” reason for not being the right fit. Age is never mentioned. 

At this point he has been without work for so long that he has had to sell all his assets and is behind on all payments. He answers threatening calls from banks and creditors daily. He is experiencing deep emotional stress and feels isolated because he is ashamed to speak of his misfortunes. He has begun to question his abilities and self-worth and it is affecting his mental health as he realizes that he is heading for depression. Soon, not only his mental health will suffer but his general well-being will decline and he could become another lonely, older individual who depends on the government.

I can’t tell you how many times I hear a version of this story as I try to raise awareness about how pervasive ageism is. David is not a one off.  He is the norm in a North American culture that is youth obsessed. Instead of valuing the assets that this generation of Boomers has on offer, their potential is often being minimized by so many of us who are unaware of what ageism is and of our own self-directed bias against ageing.

Are you conscious of your own bias?  Try this quiz which will give you some insight into your beliefs and how they might be influencing you without you realizing it.


Ageing Well, Ageism  

Older women are coming into their own

 Jan 17, 2019 8:00 PM
by Helen Spence

Not unlike a good wine, many of us over 60 improve as we age. We mellow out, become more compassionate and less competitive and generally have a broader perspective on life.  We are interested in the well-being of future generations and have a desire to give back in one way or another.


Well, at long last, there seems to be increasing acceptance of this truth, especially as it pertains to older women. If any of you have watched the recent Golden Globes or seen the NY Times article on this topic, “I am (an Older) Woman. Watch me Roar”, you will understand why I say this.


When women over 60 gain power in positions that traditionally were held by men, the public begins to notice. In many ways it’s unfortunate that they have to gain acknowledgement in the public domain as “powerful” before anyone notices, but if it helps fight ageist bias against older women, I’ll take it.


This January has been an extraordinary start to what I believe will be a new movement. There’s a natural nexus with the women’s liberation and feminism movement of the 60s and 70s, the #Me Too movement and ageism. Nancy Pelosi at age 78 has become the most powerful elected woman in US history; Glenn Close, 71, won actress of the year for the Golden Globes; and Susan Zirinsky, 66, takes over CBC news in March.


These women are all terrific role models and will help start the conversation about how perceptions of age influence decisions that affect hiring, re-employment and general engagement of all older adults. It will help destigmatize some bias, but it isn’t and won’t be enough to penetrate other less privileged socio-economic groups.


It is incumbent on all of us to participate in breaking down these barriers in order to fulfill the real potential of older adults. Everyone has a role to play no matter how small. Starting conversations with younger folks, confronting older friends and relatives about their own internalized biases, and proclaiming with pride how old you are just a few ways to combat the negative understanding of what it means to age.


When my 21/2 year old little grandson started crying when his mother referenced growing up and getting older, he whimpered: ”I don’t want you to get old, mommy, and I want to stay a little boy”. Where does this perception come from so early in life? Obviously, we have to start this conversation at a very young age.

Ageing Well, Ageism, Employers, Human Resources  

Gifts of Knowledge

 Dec 11, 2018 2:30 PM
by Debra Yearwood

Happy holidays! In keeping with the season we’ve got some great resources for you, but first a bit on how we came across them. In December Helen and I graduated from Impact Academy, Citymaker Edition. This is a 3-month immersive and experiential learning program for creative and entrepreneurial change-makers. The academy is delivered by The Hub Ottawa, Synapcity and the City of Ottawa. The organizers were well informed, very helpful and full of great insights. We recommend the Impact Hub if you are looking for a shared space to work and an opportunity to engage other entrepreneurs and social innovators. You should also check out Synapcity if you want to build connections among city makers. To learn more about Synapcity you may want to attend their free (though donations are always welcome) gathering the third Tuesday of every month. Now, onto great resources.

During our three months, we had the pleasure of learning with a diverse group of creative city makers, people who are using their ability to be innovative to develop a stronger, more caring city. We not only got to learn from the other participants, but we got to explore the many different assets available to Ottawa’s social enterprises, non-profits and for-profit businesses. Below we have shared some of those great resources. You may be familiar with many, but sometimes it’s useful to take a look again with fresh eyes.

Makewell Executive Coaching: Our very first workshop was with Jeffrey Edwards and Cathy Malcolm Edwards of Makewell Executive Coaching and they were a great start. Jeffrey takes a systems approach to executive training. He focuses on all of you, not just the part that shows up at work. They extend that thinking to how they suggest building great products or services. In our workshop, we explored design thinking, always a powerful tool when developing ideas and solving problems. To assist our efforts in this area they provided two great free resources you may find useful, the IBM Design Thinking Field Guide and The Field Guide to Human Centred Design from IDEO.org.  We also watched an excellent video on empathy by Brené Brown you can find HERE.

Funding & Market Info - Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF): If you’re thinking I’m a for-profit entrepreneur so they don’t matter to me, think again. Among the many things the OCF does, it collects and organizes tons of information on Ottawa.  Information good marketers would find useful and its free. They do this on a site called Ottawa Insights. You can learn about everything from Ottawa’s economic diversity (or the lack thereof) to demographic information on our residents; facts such as 36% of Ottawa’s population is over fifty and 15% are over sixty-five.

For the not-for-profits or soon to be not for profits, you can apply for grants through OCF by partnering with a charitable association. If you are a charitable organization then there are several options available. You can learn more by visiting OCF.

Equity (Yumi Kotani) & Business Modelling (Impact Hub’s Gina Babinec): In this session, we explored what it means to create an equitable organization and develop a business model that reflects your objectives. Yumi helped us to explore the true meaning of equity and some of the equity pitfalls we might inadvertently, fall into, notably confusing equity with equality. Equality assumes that everyone starts off with the same benefits or assets and equity reflects that different people have different requirements. One of the tools Yumi used in the workshop that you may find useful is the diversity wheel. The City of Ottawa has developed a free Equity & Inclusion Lens Handbook you may find useful. The lens can be used to incorporate diverse perspectives in order to strengthen the capacity of work teams, to create a positive and respectful work environment or to address systemic barriers among other things. Yumi also shared a link to the Project Implicit website from Harvard where you can get an evaluation of your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other topics.

In the second half of this session, we looked at business models and the importance of building and adjusting our model to be responsive to markets. We also looked at various hybrid models and the flexibility they allow. One of the resources you may want to check out is an Entrepreneur 101 course offered online by MaRS for a price that will fit most budgets.

Social Enterprise Consulting - Social Delta: If you are part of or are thinking of creating a social enterprise and feeling stuck, then you might want to consider talking to Jonathan Wade at Social Delta. Social Delta provides consulting services to individuals and organizations wishing to conceive, design, launch or expand a social enterprise. We found his insights useful and Jonathan is friendly and most importantly, he knows his stuff. You should take a look at their free downloadable business tips and tools here.   

Telling Your Story - Adrian Harwood and Mohammed Shaheen: Many of you may be familiar with Adrian Harwood, host of CBC News Ottawa. Adrian provided great insight into how to tell your story and while I can't capture everything he had to say, the concept that stood out for me was the importance of keeping your story simple. Each word should be needed or get rid of it. It's an idea that is a lot easier in theory but so important to clarity in storytelling.

Mohammed Shaheen, founder of the Silk Road Institute also spoke about the power of stories and prompted us to 1) clearly identify our audience and 2) reflect on where we are trying to take our audience. What emotions are we trying to achieve, negative, positive weak or strong? It's important that we know what we are trying to achieve before starting or we may inadvertently misdirect or lose our audience altogether.

There were many more tools and insights, more than we can list here. As you consider the year ahead and make your plans for an engaging and purposeful 2019, I hope you find these links useful and you take advantage of the many opportunities to which we all have access. All the best!


The Power of Gratitude

 Oct 4, 2018 11:00 AM
by Helen Spence

If “gratitude” is one of those words you regard as too spiritual or “new age-ish”, it’s time for a serious rethink especially if you intend to age well both physically and mentally.

It’s actually all about the 'attitude' part in GRATITUDE. Your attitude is observable by others and they react accordingly. When you pull up to the drive-thru at Dairy Queen and the young woman at the window has made a mess of your order, she might understandably expect you to be ill-tempered. When you smile unexpectedly instead of growling at her, she feels better, is grateful and is more likely to pass on your sense of well-being. The impact of gratitude is far reaching. It can be contagious in the same way that random acts of kindness and forgiveness are but gratitude definitely has the greatest impact on you.

The positive psychology movement has much to offer, even if you are a bit skeptical.  It has been scientifically proven that those who score higher on the gratitude scale tend to be in better moods, have a better quality of sleep, experience less anxiety and less depression. Appreciating the good in our lives actually causes a change in physiology by balancing the rhythms of our heart and nervous systems which leads to beneficial changes in our immune systems and hormonal equilibrium. Interestingly, the same principles apply to older adults as to the young.

A healthy sense of gratitude deepens our capacity to live well--- both physically and mentally, however, it requires awareness and attention. This often translates into slowing down, being mindful, observing carefully, and truly celebrating your life as you live it. It involves being satisfied and being accepting of life as it plays out.

Instead of lamenting older age, try to think of the experience it represents! It’s much more positive to say I have 69 years of experience than saying I am 69 years old. Being grateful that I wake up each morning is a gift which I appreciate.

Fortunately, learning how to be more grateful is one of the easiest skills to learn if you’re willing to practice. Science has proven that even these two simple exercises will make a difference in your life. It’s worth a try.

  • Find a little notebook which you entitle “Gratitude Journal”.  Every night before going to bed enter from 3-5 things that you were grateful for during the day. You need to do this for about 6 to 8 weeks.By focusing on the positive, you will feel the difference. It will help shift you into a healthier, happier mindset.
  • Think of someone in your life who has had a positive impact on you. Identify some of the qualities that this person has and focus on how grateful this made you. This person’s kindness and help contributed to a positive feeling in you which affects the way your brain fires new neurons and develops neural pathways. If you try to emulate some of those character traits, your sense of gratitude can expand equally.

Gratitude has everything to do with your outlook on life. How well do you observe and appreciate those small, positive details of your life?

Ageing Well, Human Resources  

Spotting Opportunity

 Aug 21, 2018 10:00 AM
by Helen Spence

Spotty Opportunity

Opportunity surrounds you everywhere as long as you can spot it! If you subscribe to “out of the box” thinking, it will be easier. This kind of thinking requires creativity and, by this, I am not referring to becoming a painter or performer. Creativity is a skill that anyone can learn at any age.

In a fast-paced world amid rapid change, individuals tend to ignore the immediate and the present. They live in the future of deadlines and appointments. A wonderful way to overcome the natural propensity for being on top of everything is practicing mindfulness; it represents an understanding of living in the moment, a task that requires effort unless repeated regularly. If we can train ourselves to focus on the present, it helps slow down the outside world and provides time to reflect. Reflection is an activity that is critical to almost everything undertaken, especially when spotting opportunity.

Ideas spring both from within and from the outside world. If you have ever spoken to a child who hasn’t yet attended school, you’ll find that their imagination is resplendent with original thoughts. They are exploring the most basic concepts with awe and wonder. They are in constant “discovery mode”. It is this state of mind that we all need to adopt when looking for opportunity. We have to adopt a beginner mindset to break down the complex and come up with something new and untried.

Sometimes, it’s easiest to think through your day and journal it in its entirety----the good, the bad and the not so bad. Identify what has been frustrating or disappointing; it could be with a person, a process or a product. In order to turn this negative thought into a more optimistic message to yourself, can you think of creative ways in which you might remediate the problem? Sometimes the craziest idea is doable although it might need massaging to make it a reality. This could be the start of a new opportunity.

Another way of trying out new ideas is through association. Let your mind wander and write down any thought that comes to mind that is associated with the original idea. Take post-it notes and just let it flow; then rearrange or chunk them according to the subject matter, feasibility, innovation. Think of the absurd, the challenging, the unusual, the seemingly impossible. Very often, the most brilliant solutions come from making associations.

The idea doesn’t always need to be original. It can be a solution to an existing management problem, a manufacturing issue, a human resources issue or a customer relations issue. The most brilliant solutions come from turning ideas on their head and coming at solutions from another angle altogether. The birth of Airbnb comes from thinking about hotel accommodations without any hotel. Anything goes.

My favourite means of spotting opportunity comes from random encounters with people. It can be the passenger next to me on the plane, the pharmacist in the local drugstore, or my child’s homeroom teacher. Conversations spark creative thinking and I often find that I can come up with new ideas. Being in a certain place at the right time is pure and utter coincidence but it sometimes is a way of making disconnected ideas gel. Every meeting, conference, intentional or unintentional encounter is an opportunity to find a positive connection that moves you forward if you are of an entrepreneurial (learning, discovery) mindset.

Whether you think so or not, you are always part of the opportunity spotting process.  Make sure personal biases and preferences don’t act as a block. If you have an aversion to online activity, force yourself to participate. Who knows, this may result in finding opportunities which you typically wouldn’t consider.  Most importantly, stay positive. A pessimistic mindset focuses on and finds failure. An optimistic perspective looks for and finds opportunity everywhere.

For other tips on spotting an opportunity, visit our resources page.


Ageing Well, Entrepreneurs, Human Resources  
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