Thursday, November 11

Opportunity for all

I've been reading a very interesting book in the last few days.  The author is very familiar to me, but this is not in his usual style.

Edward de Bono's "Opportunities" presents a formula for embedding the search for new and better products and operations into the normal day jobs of senior managers, in such a way that this doesn't just become a "nice-to-have" aspect of their roles.

What a good idea?  Typical of him, really.

Far from being hypothethical, we feel that we're reading a thorough and carefully-considered account of methods which de Bono has actually seen in practice.  (I'm looking for empirical evidence now, and would appreciate any feedback.)

There's an unexpectedly large amount of detail in the book, so I'll provide only a taster here:

  • Traditional roles don't often reward the pursuit of new opportunities, especially in the public sector.
  • There's often no-one who "owns" that pursuit either.  Everyone expects someone else to do it.
  • Despite this, the search for new opportunities should be taken-up at all levels to allow organisations to remain competitive.
  • So we need to encourage this important activity, even though there's usually something more urgent to keep us busy.
  • It can figure in everyone's job description.
  • There should be an "Opportunity Audit" process, whereby an "Opportunity Manager" supports managers in producing annual "Opportunity Reports".
  • These reports oblige managers to seek opportunities in their areas, and in others' area--but more importantly to secure sponsorship to take them up.

All of this seems eminently sensible, and I struggle to find fault with the fundamentals.    So why don't we hear more about it?

I can only speculate that:
  1. At board-level, the search for opportunities seems so unavoidable that it's assumed everyone already does it, ... or 
  2. A fairly rigid framework like de Bono's seems antithetical to the kind of spontaneous, creative thinking we usually associate with market exploration, ... or
  3. No-one has yet shown the foresight to set-aside sufficient budget for such a scheme, despite the significant likelyhood of sharp and swift returns.
Perhaps I'm wrong.  Perhaps this has already been tried unsuccessfully by a number of companies.  If you know the answer, please get in touch.

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