Not every tricky situation we face will lead us to a world-changing innovation like penicillin or Uber.
But having the attitude that approaches problems as if they contain such opportunities will always bring us five important benefits:
- A feeling of inspiration and emotional engagement
Looking for opportunities is more inspiring than fixing problems. It builds emotional engagement, which is good for morale and improves productivity and results.
Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” Simply looking for the opportunities creates that hope.
- Deeper understanding
Searching for the opportunities in a situation forces us to let go of our assumptions about the situation. Finding deeper understanding will always be useful, no matter which direction we then decide to move forward in.
- Greater durability and impact
When John Cleese was writing sketches with the Monty Python team, his colleagues would often stop when they got to the first punchline. Cleese would keep working until he found the second, third, or even fifth level of comedy. This was harder work and took longer but the results he created were stronger, funnier, and longer lasting.
If you want to generate outcomes that are more remarkable, last longer, or connect at a deeper level than your competitors, look for the opportunities that lie beyond the obvious solution or the quick fix.
- More choice, more control, and more determination
By choosing not just to see ‘problems’ but to look for the opportunities in a situation you retain more control over your destiny. And even if you end up choosing the same response as before, you now make it a deliberate choice between a wider range of alternatives, instead of something you were forced into.
This puts you back in control.
And that makes you more confident that you have chosen the best available option, which adds vigour and enthusiasm to your implementation.
Looking for the opportunities in a situation is another step towards making us and our organisations what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls ‘antifragile’.
Objects, people, and organisations that break under stress we call ‘fragile’. Objects, people, and organisations that survive under stress we call ‘robust’, ‘strong, or ‘resilient’. And objects, people, and organisations that actually use stress to become stronger, Taleb calls ‘antifragile’.
These five things are the core of what Inner Leadership is about: generating more inspiration and engagement, building deeper understanding, remaining in control, and finding more robust ways forward that will last. And ultimately, Inner Leadership is about learning to use any situation to make ourselves and our organisations stronger, antifragile.
That process begins the moment we decide to look for the opportunities in a crisis — whether we then find a world-changing solution or not.
Would any of these five benefits be useful to you? Have you looked for the opportunities that might be hidden in a ‘crisis’ you are currently facing?
Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also have to practice.)