“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
- Thomas Edison
What does this famous quotation mean? How can you increase your odds of being able to see the opportunities that are hiding right in front of you? Here are 10 strategies to help you remove your mental blinders and see the opportunities that exist all around you:
1. Whack your perspective: Look at your products and services from different perspectives. How would a customer group that you’re not currently serving view them? How would a competitor look at them? What weaknesses would they try to exploit? How would someone from another world, who has never seen your company or its products, regard them? These “sleight of head” questions are designed to help you to kick your brain out of its usual patterns of perception and thought.
2. Go back to the future: How will what you’re doing be performed 10 years from now? Project yourself a decade into the future and develop a rich narrative of what this will look and feel like. Then come back to the present and make a list of what you need to begin doing now to get there before anyone else.
3. Challenge orthodoxy: What represents “the way we do business around here” in your company or industry? What are the assumptions that underlie each of those deeply-embedded beliefs? How can you overturn them?
4. Leverage underutilized assets or strengths: What skills or assets do you have that you are routinely underutilizing? How can you view them in a different context? What do you consider to be “waste” that has no current value to you and your business? How can you utilize it in a different way that may have value?
5. Expand your knowledge: Ask yourself, “What don’t I know?” Identify gaps in your knowledge, and seek sources where you can fill them in. By doing so, you’re likely to gain new insights that will help you look at your present situation and circumstances differently.
6. Why? Why? Why??! Repeatedly ask “Why?” until you get to the clearest essence of whatever it is you are looking for. It’s an excellent, simple way to uncover deeper truths and to see things you may not have been aware of before.
7. Expand your horizons. Read different books, magazines and blogs – outside of your normal areas of interest. Have lunch with someone you normally wouldn’t do so. Then ponder what you’ve learned from each of these experiences, and what lessons you can apply to your current challenges. Cultivate an “insight outlook” – the ability to see beyond surface appearances and consider the deeper context or implications of what you’re seeing, hearing and experiencing.
8. Leverage other minds to help you see better: Organize a master mind group of like-minded individuals, people you respect in your industry or profession. Meet on a regular basis, with an agenda of asking the tough questions about each participant’s business and then brainstorming ideas and solutions calculated to help them grow each person’s career and business. Often, others can see things that we’ve missed. A good master mind group can help you to identify and leverage previously unseen opportunities.
9. Explore the fringes. What “weak signals” are you presently ignoring or dismissing, because they appear to be “just a fad” or only appear on the fringe of your profession or industry? In other words, what trends are just starting to emerge in your field? What if one of those trends evolved into something more important? What would the implications be?
10. Explore alternate scenarios: Invest time conducting “What if?” mental experiments and exploring future scenarios. What if the raw material used to make your products suddenly became scarce or exorbitantly expensive? What if a big company bought your closest competitor and infused it with a lot of cash to drive growth? What if an unforeseen event suddenly made what you do obsolete, or rendered it much less valuable than before? What if a famous person unexpectedly endorsed you or your product? How can you prepare for these negative and positive possibilities now?
How do you see hidden opportunities?
Opportunities are all around you. What’s needed is an expanded mindset, which will help you to “see” more clearly. What methods do you use to identify hidden opportunities? Please share your stories in the comments area below!