Opportunity is a difficult word to define. We don’t use it in normal conversation. It appears in business and organizational settings frequently. People get excited when using the word opportunity. There is a certainty in their voice when using the word.
The difficulty in defining the word, opportunity, revolves around our ability to capture it. To benefit from it. To work ourselves into the middle of it.
Opportunities always start outside of ourselves. They are something apart from us. Not in our hands. Distant yet sounding so good. Obvious and easily attainable.
Is knowing that the largest skyscraper in your city is for sale an opportunity? Only if you have the money to buy it. Is knowing that the head neurosurgeon position at a prestigious hospital needs to be filled quickly an opportunity? Only if you have the education and the skill.
Is knowing that the internet of things (connecting computers to everyday appliances or things we use) is a huge market an opportunity? Only if we have the skill, the education, and the knowledge about these devices and the way they can be connected to everyday things.
Opportunity is “three sided”. The first side is recognizing the signal from the external environment shouting out the chance to acquire something that we don’t currently have and that would benefit us. (Sometimes the signal is pretty straightforward — the skyscraper is for sale. Other times, you need the skill of connecting the dots and of pattern recognition to see the signal — how large the market could be for the internet of things.)
The second side is deciding if you have the resources or qualifications to take advantage of the possibility to acquire something that you don’t currently have. You don’t need all of them but you do need a good portion of them (or know how to get them) to even consider something an opportunity. No resources or qualification equals no opportunity.
The third side is the least thought about and most difficult. Opportunities imply change. To take advantage of them you will need to do or be something you are not doing or being now. They most likely will require skills and a perspective that may be different from the way you think today. The opportunity will dictate what is needed and important and may be different than what you think is important with your limited knowledge.
This third side is the riskiest part of opportunity. Can we change to fit the new need? Can we overcome the obstacles that we did not foresee while trying to seize the opportunity? Will we adjust or ignore the new demands placed on us in “in becoming” part of this new opportunity? (When we don’t change the opportunity “slips through our fingers” and we fail.)
Our evolution and growth has more to do with actually taking advantage of an opportunity than recognizing it or having the resources to jump for it.
Can you see now why opportunity is such a hard word to define? Would you agree?