In an earlier post I mentioned the importance of “seeing around the corner” and also how to accomplish that.
But simply seeing round the corner, and understanding the next big thing is not enough.
You need to keep working on three other things to be able to capture maximum value out of the future environment.
If you don’t do this, you may still be able to incrementally improve upon what you are currently doing, and maybe even manage to stay afloat.
But you will lose out on the new opportunities.
The three things to keep working on are:
- Situational awareness – this is an extension of seeing round the corner.
- Preparedness – ensuring you are well-equipped to leverage the opportunity on offer.
- Opportunity – recognizing the opportunity as soon as it materializes, and then grabbing it with both hands.
Situational awareness is defined simply as knowing the things going on around you.
But when you are thinking about transformational opportunities, you need to take it one step further.
Align this with your objective – your ultimate objective. Let’s say it is to maximize opportunity in the new digital analytics environment.
Once you align your awareness with your objective, you will constantly keep thinking about it, and trying to connect every dot to your objective. As you consume more and more information, and connect more and more dots, a few “paths” will become obvious to you. Since the paths always align to your objective, i.e. your goal, you know the path to take.
By constantly thinking about your goal, you also attract people and information that are related to your objective.
Knowing the path to take and having the confidence that this path will lead you to your ultimate objective is all fine, but if you are ill-equipped to accomplish the tasks required, you will have lost the opportunity.
Preparedness is the act of continuously equipping yourself with the skills and expertise required to reach your objective.
Situational awareness actually lets you know what should you prepare for!
For example, if you want to become an economist, then an advanced degree would help you better position yourself. If you want to lead teams, then practicing making decisions and identifying “A” players will be very useful.
Preparedness also gives you the confidence to enter uncharted territories while inching your way towards your goal.
Networking and building tight contacts with people who are in the digital space will help you be in the minds of the important people. That way when they have to fill a position, someone will propose your name. A couple others will say yes, because they know about your interest in the field, and passion. The remaining (minimal) few will go with the majority.
You also have to outwardly and unambiguously evince interest in the new field. Let people know.
Capturing the opportunity:
Whether it is for career growth, an edge in a sporting encounter or a business venture, there will be opportunities.
Strange as it may seem, the opportunities are visible only to those who are “situationally aware” and are prepared. Preparation gives you the confidence to grab the opportunity. Being situationally aware helps you understand the depth and value of a particular opportunity.
There are certain situations and projects that many qualified people are hesitant to take on. Certain assignments are very difficult and have the potential for failure. Taking on these assignments indicates willingness to step out of your comfort zone and tackle difficult tasks. People who take up major assignments outside their regular function, or in a different country are usually considered for out-of-turn promotions. GE does this routinely with capable leaders. They are put in charge of difficult assignments outside of their comfort zones. For example a person may be asked to put together a team to manage a major sales campaign for light-bulbs. As she works through this assignment and builds the team, she is pulled out of this assignment and may be asked to lead the jet engine division. This is a major reason why GE executives go on to become CEOs of other companies.
Capturing opportunities requires decisive thinking. As Mark Twain famously quoted “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one”, opportunities do not stay on the table for long. The best way to capture opportunities is to practice decisive thinking. Making decisions with confidence and then executing on those should be practiced until you naturally start to look for such opportunities. Counter-intuitively this also makes you more “situationally aware”.
In a future post, I will lay out some examples on how some very successful people have captured opportunities which were not visible to the “unprepared” others.