A framework for dealing with opportunities and problems

As a general rule I categorize my working world into two "buckets" — one filled with Opportunities and the other filled with Problems. I will admit it's an oversimplification but I've found it's a great way to ground myself when I have to deal with things.

op·por·tu·ni·ty [ˌäpərˈt(y)o͞onədē] NOUN — a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something:

prob·lem [ˈpräbləm] NOUN —a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome:

Along with my oversimplified view of things, I have also developed a simple framework of thinking which has increased my probability for success when dealing with "Opportunities and Problems" — see my finely crafted illustration.

At its core, this framework does two things — 1) ensures I consider what's important for my thinking and 2) ensures everything that is actually done stays aligned to address the problem (or opportunity).

There are five considerations that make up this framework, and the result can be as simple or as complicated as you would like to make it (or need to make it).

  1. Identify and understand the "Opportunity or Problem" you are faced with — it is important to understand the situation involved and never underestimate the complexity of what you are dealing with. 
  2. What are your goals to exploit (if it's an opportunity) or solve for (if it's a problem)? You should have no more than two goals, and preferably only one because there is the chance you may spread your efforts too thin, or even miss the mark. If you have too many goals, maybe you have more than one problem or opportunity you have to deal with.
  3. What are the objectives needed to meet your goal(s). Remember objectives need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound) —  I suggest that you have no more than five objectives (three is preferable). If the project is big and gnarly, it may require a few more; I suggest you prioritize them, and as you achieve one objective remove it from the list and add another. 
  4. The activities you need to initiate to achieve the objectives. This could be a laundry list of activities, and they definitely need to be prioritizes because some may build upon each other. Activities, like Objectives, need to be SMART, and are really a tactical subsection of an objective. This sub-sectioning keeps everything you have to do in a manageable form, and helps identify the last consideration.
  5. Resources — nothing gets done without people, money, systems, and time. Rallying the resources around the activities ensure things get done and helps prevent reallocation of your resources somewhere else if scope creep comes into play. Depending on the complexity of the goal and associated objectives, having a resource allocated to act as a project manager or "facilitator" may make sense. Sometimes all of this can get very, very complex and fall off the rails very, very quickly if someone isn't looking at the big picture. 

The order of things I've outlined just reflects the planning process you should go through so you can articulate what you need to do and get approval to proceed — or get the green light as we like or say in the business.

Once you get that... well... then it's just a matter of rallying the resources to get the activities going to drive your objectives forward; in turn meet your goal(s) to solve the problem (or take advantage of the opportunity).

Easy Peasy — then again, I may be oversimplifying.


Vujá dé (voozha-day)... the beginning of a "wee bit of an obsession".

I was informed of the term Vujá dé the other day and in short order it has gained momentum to be "a wee bit of an obsession".

Derived from Déjà vu, the phenomenon where an event happens and you feel that it has happened before, Vujá dé is the direct opposite... it's when something (or somewhere) that should be familiar, is suddenly very different.


A propensity for discovering something new in something you've already seen a million times before.


Noticing something for the first time that has been there all along; the realization that you've been unaware of something you should have noticed a long time ago.

Why the obsession? Being able to see things differently, particularly in something that is familiar, leads to new ideas, uncovers opportunities and leads to better ways of doing things. Accomplishment is found in something new and different.

So with this obsession taking hold, there is a couple of things I will need to do right away:

  1. Research and understand Vujá dé* further. This will include reading the book Weird Ideas that Work by Bob Sutton (who was one of the first people to write on the subject).
  2. Develop the discipline, perspectives and tools to notice something that hasn't been noticed before.

I will let you know how it goes.


* It seems that George Carlin, the master of seeing things that others have not, was the first one to introduce the concept of Vujá dé.


Birds and problem solving... a perspective.

Alejandro Jodorowsky said, "Birds born in cages think flying is an illness"; an imaginative reminder that our circumstances will influence how we view the world, how we think, and ultimately how we act. This is a truism if ever there was one - Based on our perspective, we will look at things differently than others. 

As a positive, this leads to different points of view, fresh thinking and a better understanding of situations; conversely though, a point of view between some people can be so different (and even though they are articulate and eloquent), they truly can't understand each other. She said "white" and he heard "black" is a tongue-in-cheek example, but does sum it up nicely.

If you have ever been through a profiling exercise, be it DISC, Myers-Briggs or any of the colour based profiling, you know that not only do you better understand yourself, but also develop an understanding of the differences in people; you appreciate why we look at the world differently and how to find common ground for effective communication and understanding - As the old adage goes, "If you want to understand someone, walk a mile in their shoes".

So what does this mean for creative problem solving? With consideration to the premise that the better you understand a situation, the better your solution will be; you want a wide range of perspectives to get a better result. But in this, lies a rub...

If perspectives are so different, it may be very difficult (if not impossible) to understand each other, which not only negates the value of looking at a situation differently, but leads to frustration, misunderstanding and conflict. The trick is to get various perspectives that are different enough to better understand the situation, while developing the skills and an environment to find a common ground to understand those different perspectives - The better you are this, the wider array of perspectives you can engage... and that's just good for problem solving.

  • Encourage profile exercises for you and your team to better understand individual "make-up" and dynamics - In turn learn how you best work and communicate with each other.  
  • Struggling to understand each other? Solicit others and their point of view... it will encourage clarity of understanding for everyone.
  • Put yourself in the other person's shoes to better understand how and why they see what they see.
  • Remember patience. Sometimes it takes time to understand someone else's point of view.
  • In most cases, a different perspective is not wrong... just different.

When understanding a situation or problem, the goal is not to assess "right or wrong" regarding perspectives, but rather understand all perspectives and ensure you have developed the clearest picture... and from there, the best solution to your problem.

I hope my perspective makes sense.