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Agile Computing: Article

Do You See Crisis or Opportunity?

There's no strategic methodology, no magic business formula to finding opportunity in a crisis. We get to choose.

So many seem to expect continued failure these days; stuck in fear, focused on the negative. The economy is our scapegoat, and Eeyore's "Woe is Me" echoes resoundingly.

Yet some businesses and people are thriving - in the middle of the same 'crisis'.

So what's different for them? What do these thriving people and businesses see and do that everyone else can't seem to see or do?

A lot of it comes down to attitude and beliefs. Yes, touchy feely stuff. But I do believe that how we perceive our world impacts our experience. My own life is enough proof for me. If we look around, we'll see lots of evidence.

Find a growing business and you'll see a passion for creating the next opportunity. These teams consciously look for an upside, while everyone else focuses on sliding down the slippery slope.

Find a successful person and you'll often meet a positive, focused individual who is all about viewing the glass as half full or even overflowing, who sees opportunity in each and every situation, no matter how dark it may seem. They shine a light into the darkness et voila - their world is bright.

What if adopting a positive viewpoint changes our crisis into opportunity?

In Chinese symbols, Crisis shares a common symbol with Opportunity. The symbol for 'Crisis' contains two words, danger and opportunity. Taken together - the symbols mean 'opportunity in a time of danger'. Imagine that! Inherent in every crisis is the aspect of opportunity.

So what determines the outcome? When a force intervenes to cause a 'turn for the better', the crisis transforms into an opportunity.

We can be the force that powers the swing from crisis to opportunity.

How? Our attitude! When we look at life with a positive attitude - we're more likely to see new opportunities, to think in out-of-the-box ways, to create differently, to believe in our abilities to power a positive outcome. Those are the key ingredients for success - in business or our personal lives.

It's not easy to focus on the positive in the middle of the storm. I'm often called a 'Pollyanna' thanks to my passion for seeking the upside. It used to hurt my feelings. Not anymore. Now I feel sad for those who see my positive focus as some fairytale fantasy. I know the power of positive. I've practiced it through many tougher-than-fiction crises in my own life. I've always come out stronger on the other side - thriving.

We can thrive. We all have the power to control how we see and respond to the world - and to benefit as our world responds in kind.

Are we the positive force that powers opportunity in crisis, or are we part of the crisis?

It's our choice. What do You choose?

Have you ever 'listened' to your thoughts? Do you know which way you naturally flow when crisis or change happens?

Let's test it right now. Ask yourself: "Do I See an Economic Crisis or a Market Opportunity?"

Many claim we've just experienced the leveling of our global economy. Leveling as in devastation. I don't see that. Neither do my positive thinking associates. We see this 'leveling' as a normalization of our business world, a return to the basics and fundamentals that power sustainable success. All the extreme trends and expectations have blown away.

Opportunity is all around us. If we are willing to think differently, to transform our beliefs about ourselves and our markets.

How do we transform our perspectives? We change the way we choose to think.

Quantum Theory promotes the existence of limitless outcomes for each and every situation. The outcome we experience is the outcome we choose to see.

Pay attention to that. Any outcome is available to us - we choose what we experience. When we change our thoughts and expectations - we change our outcomes. So how do we change the way we think? Well, that depends on what works for you and your organization. Here are some of the options I suggest to clients.

Consciously change our patterns. All too often our negative thinking is simply a patterned response. We can change any pattern with some focus.

  • Take some time to pause and reflect on the knowns and truths you hold so closely about your business and market. Listen to your thoughts; capture the beliefs that are crisis-bound.
  • Examine each belief and consciously search until you find the flipside of opportunity. Then consciously create ways that could make that opportunity a reality for your business.
  • Ask your team to do the same exercise. Then share all those positives among yourselves and let the positive brainstorming flow.

Go talk to your customers. I had a client last year that was in a really tough situation. Doom and gloom oozed out of the corporate walls. Yet we were working on a piece of innovation that was truly game changing. One exec made a comment that stuck with me. "When things get too depressing in here - I go out and talk to customers about how they see our value today and in the future. They always give me a good dose of opportunity perspective - and they cheer me up." Think about that - customers as a source of opportunity thinking. Another reason to stay close to your customers.

Turn everything upside down and backwards. I know this is going to sound strange - but it works. Sometimes when I'm stuck in a thinking 'rut', I shift everything. So try this to change your perspective! Write things in different orders on the whiteboard, put details as headings and bury the core knowns. Make all the facts look different - that helps find new opportunities we couldn't see before. Don't believe me? Try reordering your Yahoo, Google or whatever Home page. That new order changed your perspective, didn't it? Now go try that with your business brainstorming.

Opportunity brainstorming. Want to change the way your organization perceives the world? Try this.

  • Get folks together who are known to be positive thinkers.
  • Add in some of your known and vocal doom 'n gloomers who have the potential to transform.
  • Task the team to identify 5 new opportunities for your business. Ask them to look at everything in new and innovative ways - no rules, no boundaries, no limits.
  • Involve a leader who will focus on the opportunity and keep the conversations moving in the positive direction.
  • Let the positive thinkers mold the naysayers in real time. Sure, some of the woe-is-me clan won't come along, but some will. Those transformed and positive folks will go back into your organization and help change the thinking patterns.
  • Plus, you'll get fresh ideas for your next big opportunity.

Learn from others. Many great companies have faced tough times and risen from the ashes to soar. Chances are those leaders found a way to focus on the opportunity. Learn from them. Read their stories, research how they found that opportunity. Learn how they managed to see their way from crisis to opportunity. Find what can work for you and your situation and apply it.

If you're thinking this is all too touchy feely for you, I understand. It's hard to believe that changing something as simple as the way we perceive things can change our business results. We're all programmed that doing something is what makes things happen, not thinking or believing something.

Still, the doom and gloom thinking isn't getting us closer to success, now is it? So what have we got to lose?

Now - think about what we have to gain, in business and in our own personal life, if attitude and expectation really does have an impact on our outcomes. There's only one way to find out.

Commit to focusing on opportunity for a month.

As I've been talking about finding the opportunity in a crisis, I realized some of my friends are perfect examples of finding light in the midst of darkness. So today isn't all about business - it's about people who chose to make lemonade when they were given big fat lemons.

Take my dear friend Amanda (Yes, some of the names are bogus). 13 years ago she was diagnosed with liver failure. California told her she'd wait years to reach the top of the transplant list - a death sentence. Did she curl up in a ball and give up? Nope. She picked up and moved to another state where she could have the transplant in a timely fashion. She had the transplant and has never looked back. She's alive and kicking with us here today.

Then there's my buddy Chuck. He was diagnosed with a Class 4 GBM brain tumor, given 2 months to live. The doctor told him NO ONE survives this type of tumor, that treatment was hopeless. Chuck did the surgery, radiation and chemo TWICE - even when the doctors said it was hopeless. He took alternative treatments. A hypnotherapist imprinted the belief that the doctors were wrong. They were wrong. At six years and counting, he's the longest living survivor of this form of cancer in the world.

How about some people who took a crisis and turned it into an opportunity to serve?

Angela and Connor were splitting up when Connor was diagnosed with advanced AIDS (transfusion) and a massive bacterial infection that means certain death. He had maybe 3 months.(By the way, Angela is negative!). Connor had no one to take care of him - so Angela stayed. She refused to see him dying - wrote pages in her journals, visualized his recovery. He was as sick as any human could be for over a year, but Angela stuck to her guns. Even when he hit 130 pounds (from 240) she kept seeing his recovery. 2 YEARS later, he turned the corner. Now? He's alive and healthy as a mule.

My new friend Deb, has been taking care of her parents for almost nine years now. She's exhausted but still going. I know how she feels - I did the same thing for my folks. We were talking about how many people see their parents' aging as a crisis needing to be 'handled.' That's strange to us - we both saw our folks' decline as an opportunity to give back, a chance to say Thank You. (Note: Until you've done long term care-taking I don't think you can understand how much fortitude it takes to find that sense of opportunity. Far too few ever do find it.)

Then there's my friend Colin. There was an orphanage that needed funding badly, facing a bleak future for those kids. Colin saw an opportunity to change those kids' lives. He's contributing his time and intellect to Wisdom Note, a fabulous website where for $1 per week you can share the gift of inspirational Wisdom Notes based on fabulous books. Colin didn't wring his hands, call a meeting to discuss how to change the students' plight. He stepped up to the opportunity!

What do these people's choices have to do with business?


When it comes right down to it, whether in our business or personal lives, we choose what we see and how we respond. We are responsible for our attitude.

Want a business example? Take Nintendo. They were over a year behind Microsoft and Sony in the gaming market. That's the kiss of death in such a fast moving space - which is what everyone told the folks at Nintendo. I know the consultants who told them to back off and go another direction (not me!). But the Nintendo gang just knew there was an opportunity in that gaming market. They kept to their guns.

The Wii was launched 18 months after Microsoft XBox and Sony PS3. It surpassed both of their sales within a year to become the hottest seller and lead the market. Nintendo has never looked back - they just keep focusing forward, believing int that next opportunity.

There's no strategic methodology, no magic business formula to finding opportunity in a crisis.

Sure, there are ways to stimulate new thinking, brainstorm new approaches. I shared some of those yesterday. When it comes right down to it, there's only one sure way to find opportunity.

We choose to find it.

More Stories By Rebel Brown

Rebel Brown guides organizations and individuals to harness the power of their minds to step into their ultimate potential. A masterful agent of change, for over 25 years Rebel Brown has inspired, coached and empowered individuals and businesses to unstoppable performance and results. As a recognized market strategist and turnaround expert, Rebel guided over 200 global organizations to step beyond their status quo perspectives to create profitable market advantage. She also worked with US and European venture firms to successfully fund and launch their portfolios. She also ran a consulting practice in Paris for three years, working with European clients. Fascinated by the power of our human minds to limit ourselves and our business results, she began her study of neural science. Her core question was simple. What could we do if we had no limits? Today, she brings the power of neuroscience to business (NeuroBusiness), fueling limitless thinking that drives powerful bottom line growth for her executive and corporate clients. Rebel’s work has been featured in media including First Business TV, Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Business Insider and Business Week. She is a Vistage International speaker and workshop leader as well as NSA speaker. She’s also been named one of the Top 100 Women in Computing. Rebel is also the founder and director of the Unstoppable U Foundation, a non-profit program committed to guiding kids to know that they are born to be Unstoppable!

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