Creative approaches allow us to think in terms of opportunities rather than obstacles, and even let us deliberately search for new challenges before they appear as the problems. Such proactive attitudes are foundations for changes, development and ultimately success. But what is the recipe for such an approach?
I found an answer for this during a discussion with the management of one business undertaking new activity. After asking: “what is the vision behind that?”, I have heard the firm statement: “great businesses are not built by thinking up the visions, but by seizing the opportunity”. I was grateful for this remark, since it let me realise a fine, yet clear difference between a great entrepreneur, and an average trader.
Of course, ultimately a business has to be profitable, which means that opportunities have to prevail over misguided ventures. But focusing on the nearest opportunity and jumping from one to another, leads to a purely mercantile mentality. Great businesses are, and always have been, linked to the vision. The vision allows us to find the opportunities on the way to the set goal. And vice versa – each opportunity we meet should be incorporated in the broader vision, so that it is not just a one-off occasion. A trader makes sure that he does not miss incoming opportunities, while a visionary simply creates them.
When we read stories about revolutionary discoveries, either in science, technology or business, we tend to be excited by the role of an accident. We like to attribute the decisive role just to a coincidence. Newton was made aware of the existence of gravity after watching a falling apple. Pasteur, who had used unsterilised test tubes – in spite of his usual practice. Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin when a mould developed on a contaminated glass plate. Roentgen, who accidentally left a heavy object in a laboratory and discovered its peculiar interaction with specific rays. We can also credit an accident with the invention of the cardiac pacemaker, anaesthetic, Velcro fastener, microwave oven, dynamite, corn flakes and many, many more.
However, Newton was not the first or the last person to get bumped on the head. Nor was Roentgen the only one who scattered his belongings around. Not mentioning the masses of owners of mouldy products. Not all of such cases end up with pioneering findings. It is not the accident that matters, but the persistent search for possible options, and constantly asking questions. All these mentioned discoverers were already headed in a certain direction, they had their vision, they knew their aim. The accidents were just a way of getting them out of their thinking rut and a loop of repeating what they already knew just for confirming the anticipated results. In the face of an accident, they did not ask what to do next, but what might be a new way in the desired direction. They just saw a new course – a new vision. To achieve something in a future, first you have to see it in your imagination. “Discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind” – be prepared.
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