Keep looking for the opportunities

When faced with a problem or crisis, there is a natural tendency to make that our sole focus. It can be hard to stand back, be truly creative, and look for the opportunities.

Opportunities come in many forms and usually take a deliberate effort to bring to fruition. It may be a new commercial opportunity, such as a new service or product or market. Or it may be doing things differently within your business operations, even addressing long-standing issues that never quite made it to the top of the to-do list.

Change Creates Opportunities

In a crisis, there is rapid change and with the current pandemic, the changes will keep coming for some time. Not all of them will affect you directly or immediately, but there will be changes that ripple out, affecting your business, your customers, and suppliers. Most of these changes are very hard to anticipate with any degree of certainty or detail.

In this environment it is important to keep looking out for the opportunities and taking time to explore or develop them, rather than constantly firefighting, reacting to problems and trying to re-establish some sense of normality.

This takes a different mindset, a deliberate stepping back, making time, clearing your mind and thinking creatively. It is often good to do it in a change of scene or with others. Apply your mind to it while going for a walk, schedule an online meeting with your team to talk about it, or seek others who may be able to contribute fresh ideas or perspectives.

Opportunities can come in many forms. The 1998 Auckland power crisis resulted in new investment for a much more reliable electricity supply; the Christchurch earthquakes enabled both public and private infrastructure to be built back better; even the horror of the Christchurch mosque attacks opened our eyes and hearts to addressing prejudice in our community.

The COVID Opportunities

In the COVID context, many governments are creating opportunities for “shovel ready” infrastructure projects. In New Zealand, the newly established Climate Change Commission has highlighted the opportunity for stimulus projects to enhance climate change resilience. Ways to support new employment initiatives beyond infrastructure are also being looked at.

But the greatest innovation and opportunities will come from individuals and businesses applying their minds and resources to come up with creative new ways of adapting to our changed circumstances.

With many retailers having to shut their doors during lockdown, some businesses have turned to online trading instead. It has already forced businesses to change the way staff work internally, as well as interactions with customers and suppliers. This adjustment has been hard for some, but for others, it is opening new possibilities such as more flexible employment practices, reduced travel costs, and more efficient online processes.

Whether there are opportunities will depend on your circumstances and imagination. For example, with movement still restricted, there may be opportunities for some businesses to undertake maintenance or refurbishment while customers are absent. In manufacturing, there are overseas examples of 3D printers that were used to make aeroplane parts now producing ventilators. Some commentators suggest the emphasis on health is extending beyond COVID and into healthier diets, exercise and lifestyle, providing opportunities for new services and products.

How can you adapt to take advantage of these changes?

Making it happen

Don’t just go back to the way things were before because we can – think about the benefits that may come from doing things a new way.

Make time to think

Talk to people and share your ideas early – ask questions of your customers, staff, and collaborators. Innovation rarely comes from one person alone.

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