How to Be Great at Seizing Opportunities
Last year, I discussed how entrepreneurs can seize opportunities. After all, a thriving business is all about seizing opportunities. In this blog post, I will not tell you how to seize opportunities. Rather, I explain how you can be great at seizing opportunities.
I first revisit the concept of opportunity and show a statement Warren Buffett has made on the topic of seizing opportunities. After all, learning from the masters helps you to be great at something. Later, I discuss how your personality can see an opportunity as a risk (or not). Finally, I show that asking for feedback is a simple and quick way to start spotting your first opportunities.
What is an opportunity?
An opportunity is anything that provides you with a chance to change your circumstances for the better. Opportunities are everywhere, but according to Adam Sicinski, “many of the opportunities we come across are actually disguised as problems or hard work. However, to the untrained eye — unable to see past the present moment — all opportunities are actually insurmountable problems that make life difficult, stressful and hard.”
This is where the problem, or challenge, lies: seeing problems as “problems” rather than challenges that test and strengthen your determination. “The moment you shift your perspective and begin seeing your problems as challenges is the moment you begin training your brain to spot opportunities. Problems may very well be insurmountable. However, a challenge is something you can work with to better your current circumstances.” That means it is all about your attitude whether there are opportunities for you or not.
Learning from the masters: Warren Buffet
If you do not want to be good but great, you have to learn from the masters. Warren Buffett has spoken about seizing opportunities a few times, such as during a lecture he gave at the University of Georgia in 2001. His idea of a “20 slot punch card” can be applied to investments, but also to other opportunities you want to seize and capitalize on when they come our way.
Big opportunities in life have to be seized. We do not do very many things, but when we get the chance to do something that is right and big, we have got to do it. And even to do it in a small scale is just as big of a mistake almost as not doing it at all. I mean, you really got to grab them when they come. Because you are not going to get 500 great opportunities.
You would be better off if you got a punch card with 20 punches on it. And every financial decision you made you used up a punch. You would get very rich, because you would think through very hard each one. I mean if you went to a cocktail party and somebody talked about a company and they did not even understand what they did or could not pronounce the name, but they made some money last week in another one like it, you would not buy it if you only had 20 punches on that card. […]
If you had a punch card with only 20 punches, and you were not going to get another one the rest of your life, you would think a long time before every investment decision – and you would make good ones and you would make big ones. And you probably would not even use all 20 punches in your lifetime. But you would not need to.
Taking risks or seizing opportunities?
As mentioned, some people do not see opportunities; they see problems. They should see those problems as challenges worth taking a risk for. As Aditya Mishra explains, risks and rewards are two sides of an equation. The higher the risks, the higher the rewards are. There are exceptions of course. For someone, a situation might appear to be posing more risks than the rewards while for another, the reverse could be true. This assessment of risk and benefits is a rational process. It plays out in everyone’s mind in any activity that we carry out. In this rational process, a person’s personality plays a role.
Some people adapt well to the demands of a situation, readjust their perspectives and change their thinking. In a high pace of change and uncertainties, it is natural that a business leader needs to be flexible and adaptable. If we are uncomfortable with the idea of flexibility in decision making, we stay on the path of the status quo, which possibly poses even more risks. We have to be evolving continuously. We have to keep collecting these precious chips on the way so that we can use them in the future. That means that adaptability and open-mindedness lead to the seizing of opportunities.
Spotting opportunities starts with feedback
According to Paul Barnes, listening to customers and employees allows you to spot opportunities and ensures you are pursuing the right ones. You need to be in a constant dialogue with both groups. Ensuring customers and employees deliver the insight you require revolves around four areas:
1. Asking the right questions, at the right time
When it comes to employee feedback, many companies still rely on annual surveys. Instead, they need to focus on regular, quarterly surveys. Furthermore, companies need to be looking for feedback from both groups incessantly. For example, if you are moving the office, use it as a chance for employees and clients to provide input on design. This could suggest ideas that radically transform how people work and it could increase engagement because everyone feels involved.
2. Using the right channels
Employees and customers want to give and receive feedback on a regular basis. However, often they are put off as the only options for them are to respond to surveys. Those do not give them space to suggest ideas or give more complex qualitative feedback. Companies need to look at using online communities as part of their strategy. Online communities provide a less formal, more flexible feedback mechanism.
3. Integrating your insight
Simply looking at either employee or customer feedback just gives a partial picture. The real value comes when their insight is combined together, or ideas from one group are shared with the other. Typically, individual feedback systems only flag the biggest themes and concerns, neglecting those that are smaller. By bringing all of your feedback into a single system, these long tail trends are easier to spot. That will uncover lucrative opportunities to improve processes or deliver new products or services.
4. Making it accessible
Managers have never had access to so many data. The danger here is that they will not be able to see the wood for the trees. They might not react fast enough to seize opportunities before they vanish. Companies require the ability to carry on a constant dialogue with customers and employees. Responses need to be easy to access and understand. This allows managers to interact with the data with confidence and use it to underpin insight.
Asking for feedback seems like a simple and quick way to start spotting your first opportunities. Make sure you weigh the pros and cons. Ask yourself whether the opportunity is worth taking the risk and whether not taking the risk poses more problems. If this opportunity was one of your 20 punches, would you spend a punch on it?