Not every tricky situation we face will lead us to discover penicillin or invent Uber.
But whether or not we find a world-changing solution, simply having the attitude that approaches problems as if they contain opportunities will immediately 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 and look past the surface symptoms to seek a deeper understanding.
Once we find this deeper understanding it will be useful no matter what direction we 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, 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. And even if you choose the same way forward, it then 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, and that brings added vigour 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 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 process begins at the moment you decide to look for the opportunities in a crisis — whether you find them 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? Who would you need to involve to help find those opportunities?
Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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