Recognizing Opportunities

Recognizing Opportunities

By Janet Kendall White

Problem solving is a critical skill and role for leaders and entrepreneurs. Opportunities generally show up initially as problems. They are opportunities in disguise. Seeing problems as opportunities causes us to be more open minded and flexible about solutions. Leaders see around, under and over problems beyond the obvious.

As a leader, when you encounter a problem, do you tend to think about possible solutions, or do you tend to focus only on the problem? If you focus on the problem, how long do you focus on the problem before you focus on the solution?

The secret to successful leading and entrepreneurship lies in the ability to identify and solve problems regardless of what you have to work with or where you start.

Problem solvers can observe, judge, and act quickly when difficulties arise. They can adapt with agility. The process of solving problems includes the following:

  • Identify the problem
  • Brainstorm solutions
  • Test your assumptions
  • Adapt your solutions
  • Implementation


The above requires skills such as active listening, analysis, research, communication, creativity, and decision-making, all of which are skills you can develop.

I encourage you to pay attention as you face situations, problems and see how long it takes you to move to solutions in your mind. Work on closing that gap from wherever you start.

Another needed skill for leaders is not just to solve problems alone but also to facilitate groups of people to solve complex problems. To facilitate group problem solving requires not only the skills identified above but a clear process and framework for engaging others, doing research, collecting data, determining root causes, and then developing solutions. It is both an art and a science because you are engaging others, dealing with interpersonal communication and teamwork, and ideally following a structured process all at the same time. Sounds difficult but is also something that you can learn. It requires some training in facilitation, learning a specific process that you choose to use from the many out there, and practice.

Like many other things, you have to be bad before you are good. All of these skills are things you can practice and get good at. Most of the skills we develop as leaders start with our mindsets. Understanding what our beliefs and our assumptions are allows us to either hang on to them or break them down where needed and build up different ones. Recognizing opportunities is no different.

What are the opportunities that are right in front of you that you haven’t seen because you aren’t looking? Which of those opportunities could lead to monetization for your business or for the company you work for? Could make a difference in yours or others lives?

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