5 Ideas to Spot an Opportunity

Note: A shorter version of this article was published first in my newsletter. Based on the response there, I decided to expand and repost it on the blog. So, here we go:

First of all, rarely will someone hand you a “golden” opportunity simply because if that was the case for everyone, it won’t be called an “golden” opportunity anymore. If you ever get a feeling about being “entitled” for an opportunity, you can eliminate that thought to avoid future frustration and misery.

In that sense, the title of this article is misleading a bit because you typically don’t spot an opportunity – you create one. OK, technicalities and semantics aside, how do you spot or create opportunities?

Here are some ideas to consider:

1. Look for gaps

The organization structure where you work is typically a set of nicely arranged boxes. Every box has represents a department focusing on a particular set of activities within the organization. The boxes are connected so that the work flows between these different departments. Between these boxes are the “golden” gaps. In other words, between the departmental work is some more work that’s important but nobody is currently “owning” that work. This is your chance to take ownership of that work and fill the gap or seize the opportunity.

2. Look for more responsibility

More responsibility will generally involve more work but it’s more about being accountable for bigger results. Just like the rich people get richer, the people who produce bigger results are given more opportunities to produce even bigger results. This means you are automatically put in a vantage point to spot new opportunities.

3. Look for bigger problems

General tendency is to stay away from problems and stay far away from bigger problems. However, if you are not solving a big enough problem, chances are that you may not be doing anything important. If you are not doing anything important, then chances are that you may not find any opportunities. When many people stay away from a big problem, you need to buck the trend and go after it.

Look around and see what is the “big problem” around you. Try to find a way to get engaged to lead or be in the team for solving this problem. Solving a bigger problem typically would mean seizing a bigger opportunity.

4. Look for knowledge arbitrage

Knowledge arbitrage is a term coined by Gary Hamel. In simple terms, it is a process of applying knowledge from one field in another field. Remember NetFlix for renting movies and the same way remember NetJets for renting corporate jets. How about Avelle for renting luxury handbags? Do you see the power of the knowledge arbitrage?

Go beyond your company, industry and/or trade. Look elsewhere in an unrelated field and see what’s working. See if you can apply that in your company, industry and/or trade.

5.  Look to Listen

Yes, it seems simple but most people don’t listen. Barry Grieder from Landmark Forum says it nicely – “We don’t listen. Either we are talking or we are waiting to talk again.” When you actively listen with an open mind, you will start spotting opportunities sooner than later.

Why not use this last month we have available to set yourself up for creating more opportunities in the next year?

Photo Courtesy: DonnaGrayson on Flickr