Business Strategy | Leadership / Management | Organizational Development

Stop waiting for opportunities. Create your own.

We keep waiting for opportunity to knock. For our ship to come in. For fate to smile upon us.

As if the future was a matter of chance.

But what if it’s not? What if we have the power to make our own future?

I was reading Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s memoir Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of a Creative Mind recently when the following passage knocked me flat:

“The world has conditioned us to wait for opportunity, have the good sense to spot it, and hope to strike at the appropriate time. But if opportunity is just a set of circumstances, why are we waiting around for the stars to align? Rather than waiting and pouncing with a high degree of failure, you might as well go ahead and create the set of circumstances on your own. If you make the opportunity, you’ll be first in position to take advantage of it.”

Stone used high school as an example. He wanted to play a sport and excel at it, but he was terrible at the existing sports at his school. His solution: If he could introduce his school to a sport that no one knew how to play well, he would look pretty good by comparison. He chose lacrosse. He found a coach and enough classmates who were interested in playing, convinced the school to make it an official sport, and pretty soon was elected the team’s captain.

He didn’t wait for opportunity to strike. He created his own opportunity.

We all have that ability. Instead of waiting for things to happen to us and reacting to them, we need to start reading the tea leaves, detecting those weak signals of disruptive change, and creating ways to take advantage of them.

That’s called “anticipation,” and it’s the missing business competency that nobody is talking about — and that everybody needs.

“We’re all really good at reacting, responding, and putting out fires,” Daniel Burrus, a futurist and best-selling author, told me recently. “We’re really good at executing strategy, and as we know, that didn’t help Blockbuster, BlackBerry, Sony, Dell, Microsoft, HP, and countless others.

“So what’s missing?” Burrus asked. “It’s the ability to anticipate problems before they happen, disruptions before they disrupt, customer changes and shifts and needs before others can see those things happen, new opportunities before your competition can see them. If we look at the hundreds of certainties around us once we learn how to see them, we’ll have a new sense of power, a way to direct our future, a way to shape the future in a positive way.”

It sounds pretty nebulous, but anticipation is actually a skill that can be learned, and Burrus wants to teach us how to do it.

Save the date for May 4 — Burrus will present a live program and a webcast titled “The Anticipatory CPA.” If you want to learn how to position your organization for future success, you won’t want to miss it.

In the meantime, here are a few more resources that might help:


Bill Sheridan