Five opportunities that exist in any situation

A hand, with 5 fingers

We know that problems contain opportunities and that finding those opportunities will bring us the inspiration that matters so much in these times of change.

We also know that simply looking for these opportunities will be useful. And we’ve seen some examples.

The next question is: what kinds of opportunities should we be looking for?

It turns out there are five basic types.

The first two are to ignore the problem and live with it, or to walk away and exit the situation. These might seem obvious but how often do we jump in and start fixing a problem before we consider whether it really matters? How often do we waste time and effort on issues that would have been better left alone or that distracted us from our true priorities?

1. Sometimes ignoring a problem will be appropriate, simply because we have limited resources and higher priorities to deal with. Sometimes taking no action will also send an important message to employees, suppliers, customers, or stakeholders. Sometimes doing nothing is appropriate so that other people will take responsibility. And in some situations the best we can achieve is to choose which problem we want to live with.

2. Sometimes it makes sense to walk away from a situation and focus our energies elsewhere. The new situation will still bring us issues — but these might teach us more, reward us better, or lead us in a direction we care more about.

When facing a new problem, our first question should always be “Is this issue is important enough to do something about?

If we decide that it is important to take action on then there are three more types of opportunity to look for:

3. One is to simply fix the problem. This means removing the issue and restoring the situation to the way it was before. For businesses this means getting the organisation out of the ditch and back on the same track as before.
(Increasing quality or reliability, cutting costs, or raising prices are standard ways to achieve this.)

4. Another opportunity is to address the issue in a way that improves the situation over how it was before. This response gets the organisation out of the ditch and points it in a better, more productive direction.
(Corporate turnarounds, takeovers, diversifications, and repositionings can be this kind of response.)

5. And a final response is to learn how to prevent the problem from arising in the first place — or prevent it from ever happening again. This is called resolving or transforming the situation: instead of fixing the broken heating or air conditioning system, or maintaining it better, this option would be to construct buildings in ways that mean they don’t need heating or air conditioning.
As another example, occupancy rates are a strategic issue in the hotel, airline, and taxi industries. Advertising and promotions could create a short-term Fix to boost occupancy. Repositioning the business to focus on either low cost or luxury customers would be a way to Improve occupancy by pointing the organisation in a new direction. And by choosing not to own any hotels or taxis, Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft have followed the Resolve or Transform solution: they no longer needed to worry about occupancy rates!

Looking for possibilities under all of these headings is a great way to find more options for moving forward, and another step towards improving your antifragility.

Are you facing a problem today? Have you looked for the five kinds of opportunities it might contain?

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

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Photo By Marc Levin via

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