The Hunt for Opportunities

By Jay Forte  |  Posted 2009-05-13

Regardless of how well we plan, some things just fail. Maybe it’s a Webinar or meeting presentation that was well-prepared but suffered from technical difficulties. Or a disciplined savings plan that has lost nearly half its value in today’s recession.

These challenging situations define our days: Some people curse and yell, while others view them as opportunities. Inaugural Poet Maya Angelou wrote, “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

Failures, changes and unexpected events have the ability to either help or hurt us. Our outlook and response allow us to turn failures into opportunities.

Consider Thomas Alva Edison, who experienced repeated failures. His true success was not his invention of the light bulb, but rather his tenacity and an outlook that believed failures were a means to gain new information and perspectives. He constantly gathered, assessed and used information as the basis for future decisions.

Our most successful employees are the ones who have the persistence and optimism to learn from difficult situations and mistakes, and who use the information around them to re-imagine, re-create and re-experiment. They have learned to be positive and to constantly hunt for new prospects.

Enterprises can help employees hunt for opportunities by creating a more optimistic workplace culture, focusing on exponential (not just incremental) opportunities, and aligning employees with roles that match their thinking and strengths. This effort is amplified when organizations commit to gathering, assessing and using the best information to make decisions—and to use this information with a focus on opportunities.

IT departments have a key role to play in the hunt for opportunities.

They can improve the flow of information, invite discussion and idea generation, and activate organizational innovation. You can maximize your IT organization’s contribution to innovation and opportunity development by implementing three approaches.

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1. Improve the movement of, access to and use of information. IT departments can create powerful internal or intranet environments that serve as a repository of organizational information that’s available to all employees.

In addition to providing meaningful employee, product, process and other critical daily performance information, the creation of organizational wikis (a shared knowledge base) allows all employees to contribute, learn and have access to the best, most current information. This encourages idea generation, idea sharing and knowledge acquisition, and provides the organization with great information to use in its hunt for opportunities.

2. Create online discussion groups and develop internal social networks. IT can connect employees to each other and to topical discussions, problem-solution groups, and other idea and solution teams. It can develop and maintain idea-spawning grounds to solicit and summarize ideas, report on progress and encourage innovative thinking. Enabling employee connections is a critical way that IT can drive idea generation and opportunity thinking.

3. Capture, summarize and assess information. Technology’s power and value lie in its ability to successfully manage and process large volumes of information. IT departments can work with other groups to capture key performance data, assess trends, define patterns, search for problems, and report successes or missed opportunities. This data can then be used by teams throughout the company to improve efficiency, develop new products or services, improve customer relationships and invent opportunities.

Organizations that continually hunt for opportunities have strong control over the collection, assessment and use of information. Enterprises that have strong, interactive and responsive IT departments are constantly supplied with information, can easily discuss events and can connect with others around the world.

IT sets the stage for all employees to be connected with each other. Management can then encourage and direct employees to use these tools to constantly add value, share ideas and focus on improvement.

Today’s workplace is a collaborative one, in which each department must play its part in accelerating and encouraging opportunity thinking. The more an enterprise works together to present, discuss and assess information, the more it will have access to the best information available to maximize its performance. That will facilitate an organization’s success and may also help it invent the next great product or service.

Jay Forte is a consultant, speaker and author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition. He uses his years of research and training to help organizations inspire exceptional employee performance.