We’re obsessed with problems. We should look for opportunities instead

You don’t have to look very far to find casualties of the downturn across
the Northern Hemisphere. Countries, regions, cities, industries, businesses,
families, individuals have all suffered from the consequences of economic reverse.
A developed, prosperous world has turned sour. Older people have no comfortable
retirement to look forward to. Those who should be in the prime of their working
life are either out of work or struggling. A generation of young have no
workplace in which to use their hard-earned education. So problems have become
the staple diet – for supra-national bodies, for countries, for the business
and public sectors, in homes……everywhere.

Consultants and advisers are queuing up offering to solve the problems
that management and internal teams are wrestling with. Before long there will
be more hot desks at Regus than work stations in company offices.
Communications agencies seem to be multiplying as production levels of
problem-solving ideas soar.

Is it the destiny of the developed world to identify problems, and solve

I hope not. And really believe it is not the way to go. Problem solving
is plumbing by another name. The higher order activity is to spot opportunities
and realise them.

Opportunities are the gateway to innovation and growth. When I
interviewed high achievers for my forthcoming book Decide (to be published by Kogan Page in February), they all told me about the opportunities that helped to change their lives. Many about the opportunity they saw to change the lives of others. A solved problem, unless it gives rise
to an equal and opposite opportunity is a closed box or a finished crossword. A
realised opportunity is a launch pad.

As we all look for a better 2013, let’s change focus. The priority is not
to fight to be allowed to tackle problems which, in the majority of cases, have
been defined by others. The challenge is to look for opportunities which we can
capitalise upon ourselves, or help others to bring to fruition.