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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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