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 always has the potential to 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, which 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 and look past the surface symptoms to seek a deeper understanding.
Finding that deeper understanding will 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 to look for the opportunities in a situation, not just see ‘problems’, you retain more control over your destiny. The options you find will bring you new possibilities to choose from. And even if you choose the same way forward, you then make it a deliberate choice rather something you were forced into. You are in control.
That makes you more confident that you have chosen the best option available, which adds vigour and enthusiasm to your implementation.
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 because of stress, Taleb calls ‘antifragile’.
These five points are what Inner Leadership is all about: enabling ourselves to generate inspiration and emotional engagement, to build deeper understanding, remain in control, and find robust ways forward that last. Ultimately, Inner Leadership is about learning to use any situation to make ourselves and our organisations stronger: antifragile.
That process begins at the moment when you make the choice to look for the opportunities in a crisis — whether you 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.)