Five benefits just from looking for the opportunities in a crisis

John Cleese and Michael Palin perform the Dead Parrot sketch:

Not every tricky situation we face is going to lead us to discover penicillin or set up Uber. But simply having the attitude that approaches problems as if they contain opportunities will immediately bring us five important benefits, even if we don’t find a world-changing solution.

Those five benefits are:

  1. 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, which improves productivity and results.
    Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” Simply looking for the opportunities creates that hope.
  2. Deeper understanding
    Searching for the opportunities in a situation forces us to let go of our assumptions about the situation and look past the surface symptoms to seek a deeper understanding.
    Once we find it, this deeper understanding will be useful no matter which direction we decide to move forward in.
  3. 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 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.
  4. More choice, control, and determination
    By looking for the opportunities in a situation you retain more control over your own destiny. The opportunities you find will bring you new possibilities to choose from. Then, even if you choose the same way forward, it becomes a deliberate choice rather something you were forced into.
    By exploring more possibilities, you become more confident you have chosen the best available way forward, which brings added vigour to your implementation.
  5. Antifragility
    Looking for the opportunities in a situation is a 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 when placed under stress we call ‘robust’, ‘strong, or ‘resilient’. And objects, people, and organisations that actually become stronger under stress, Taleb calls ‘antifragile’.
    By choosing to look for the opportunities in a situation we take the first step towards making ourselves antifragile.

This is what Inner Leadership is all about: enabling ourselves to generate inspiration and emotional engagement, build deeper understanding, remain in control, and find robust ways forward that last. Ultimately, Inner Leadership is about learning to use the stress of any situation to make ourselves and our organisations stronger: antifragile.

This begins at the moment you decide to look for the opportunities in a crisis — whether or not you find one.

Are any of these five benefits useful to you? Which would be most useful? How could you best look for the opportunities contained in a crisis you face currently? Who do you need to involve?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Eduardo Unda-Sanzana via

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