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Top 10 Ways to Create and Manage Opportunity
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- "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.
- "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
- 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.
- 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!
- 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
- 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.
Phil, Mary, and the Staff at
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© Copyright 2003 by Philip E. Humbert. All Rights Reserved.
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