Most of us are used to the concepts of risk management or time management. Many of the same principles can be applied to creating and responding to opportunities. Instead of thinking of opportunities as just “coming along", you can actually increase the number of opportunities available to you, and there are specific principles you can use to assess whether a “possibility" has real “probability" and “profitability" for you. In times of rapid change, increasing the number of options you have available, and a system for prioritizing and responding to possibilities are critical business functions.
1. Enlarge your circle of friends. To increase the number of opportunities available, you need to go beyond traditional networking to generate friendships and trust with people who “aren't like me". Use any system you prefer, but be certain that your friendships include various ethnic, economic and social backgrounds, people who “think differently" - artists, engineers, teachers, “kids" and “old timers". Don't just “think outside the box"; network outside your circle!
2. Always be open to possibility. Years ago one of my mentors told me, “Everything I have is for sale, except my wife. " That may be rather crude and politically incorrect today, but his point was that any business opportunity, any creative idea or investment suggestion was worth at least a few seconds of his time. Look for the unlikely, consider the unthinkable and ponder the improbable. Life's biggest opportunities are often disguised.
3. Practice creativity. Intentionally think of a way to turn every crack-pot, bad idea into something useful. This is not about finding a way to invest in every scheme that comes your way, it's about practicing creativity, turning ideas on their heads, finding the kernel of wisdom or value, and throwing the rest away.
4. Avoid being overly tied to your goals. Goals, and plans for achieving them, can be extremely useful. They can keep us on track, focus our efforts, and motivate us when we're tired. But they can also blind us to new possibilities. Work toward your goals; don't let them run your life. New ideas and alternative possibilities will come along. Don't drive right past them in your hurry to finish last year's project!
5. “He who hesitates is a damned fool!" This quote from Mae West is a classic call to action. Being “light on your feet", or in Muhammad Ali's old phrase, being able to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" is useful business advice. There are times when opportunity knocks, but only stays at the door for a moment. Be prepared to respond quickly.
6. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. " Being able to respond quickly is not the same as being foolish. About 95% of the opportunities, ideas and invitations that come your way will not be worth pursuing. If it's a good idea today, it will likely still be a good idea after a night's sleep and consultation with your trusted advisors. Balance, thoughtfulness and a healthy skepticism are also critical.
7. Assess the probability of success. Just as risk management compares the odds of being struck by lightening (extremely unlikely) to the chances of a critical shipment being lost (more likely), and assigns different values to each, so opportunities have differing probabilities of success. Just because an opportunity could work out, doesn't mean it will.
8. Assess the potential payoffs. Again, borrowing from risk management, it's essential to asses the potential for “winning big". The guy who invented the Frisbee had a strange idea with a low probability of catching on, but the rewards have been enormous! The same goes for turning a coffee bar into Starbucks or sneakers into Nike. What were the probabilities that a couple of college students could turn some computer code into an operating system and end up with Microsoft? Low probability of success, but huge payoffs!
9. Actively invite opportunities. Let friends, co-workers, colleagues, competitors and customers know that you are receptive to new ideas. They are much more likely to share a possibility with you if they know you are always “looking for ideas", having fun with possibilities and trying to understand the “next big thing". Let them know you aren't necessarily hoping to change careers, just open and interested in new opportunities. And don't ridicule anything! Every idea is someone's baby and, amazingly, most of them have some value hidden in there somewhere!
10. Assess opportunities in terms of your values. You know your strengths, your interests and your core values. There will be opportunities that will ask you to become someone you aren't. You could make a fortune in stocks, real estate, software, or a thousand other industries, but you have to live with yourself. First, maintain your integrity.
© Copyright 2003 by Philip E. Humbert. All Rights Reserved. This article may be copied and used in your own newsletter or on your website as long as you include the following information: “Written by Dr. Philip E. Humbert, writer, speaker and success coach. Dr. Humbert has over 300 free articles, tools and resources for your success, including a great newsletter! It's all on his website at: http://www.philiphumbert.com