When we're talking about the need to appraise from a strategic perspective, one of the most important components is understanding opportunity. What are the opportunities, are they good are they not so good?
I love this quote from Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Unfortunately, it is very true. If we are to look at opportunities, there is usually hard work involved. We often must try and fail, to learn where those opportunities are. Whilst occasionally they do drop into our laps, it is a very rare phenomenon, unfortunately.
A frustration I often hear from business leaders is that there's a lack of opportunity, but what is more common is when they say there is so much opportunity. What we want is to identify the best opportunities. Good can be the enemy of great, just as perfect is the enemy of done. If we constantly chase new opportunities we never land the existing ones and fail to move forward. If we wait for the perfect opportunity, we do nothing. If we clearly identify our opportunities and bring organisational focus to bear, we will have success. If we fail to identify opportunities when we appraise strategically, then we are either confused with too many options or starved for lack of growth opportunities.
What we really want to know is, what does a good opportunity look like? It sounds strange to say, but if we know what we're looking for, we’re more likely to recognise it when we see it. So, part of our strategic thinking is to identify areas of opportunity. Bearing in mind as Edison reminded us, it may look like hard work.
When educational computer maker Apple decided to get into the portable music market, it turned out to be an extraordinary opportunity. They had competencies and capabilities that they brought to bear, and they went to market for the pieces they didn't have. The rest as they say, is history ,but it came from a deliberate process to look at opportunities to appraise opportunity strategically and wasn't left to pure chance.
Opportunities and timing seemed to be intrinsically connected. Whilst the early bird gets the worm as they say, it's the second mouse that gets the cheese. There’s a time to be first and a time not to be.
When was the last time you put your best and brightest in a room and ask them what they see. Where do they see the biggest opportunities? You might be surprised by the answers. Whatever you do make sure you have a process to evaluate and consider opportunities as you identify them or as they arise, because often saying no gives space and resources for the great opportunities when they come. Because come they will.