Think about the message you’ve probably heard from your GPS: “Recalculating….” Recalculating is what a continuing and rolling transformational event feels like.
Geopolitical, social, and economic landscapes continue to shift. Historians likely will look at 2020 as the year that initiated a decade- or multidecade-long transformation. In a recent survey with groups of people we work with (who are not representative of the general public), we found that 68% of the respondents are preoccupied with when life will “go back to normal.” My guess is that the percentage in the larger population is much higher, possibly with 85% or more hoping to return soon to their pre-pandemic lives.
However, deep inside, when asked to reflect, most people recognize that there is no “back-to-normal” path. Instead, there are opportunities to shape and create a new and thriving normalcy.
In our resilience workshops we redefine resilience from “bouncing back” to “bouncing forward.”
The bounce back mental model anticipates a restoration of what existed before a given setback or collapse. The bounce forward mindset appreciates that the recovery of living systems can arise only in a new form. Renewal will be found inside a new equilibrium that will require us to transform ourselves in order to complete the process.
Bounce back thinking requires no transformation. Bounce forward implies we will use the change to rewire and transform ourselves.
It is this awareness that brings me to revisit and update the window of opportunity (“WOO”) insight that I initially wrote about here a decade ago.
With the pandemic into its Second year, this is a prime time to make sure you are looking forward, not backward.
Consider first what opportunity you are focused on right now.
Opportunities come through windows. How you respond to them defines your potential to succeed, lead and shape outcomes.
The Window of Opportunity (WOO) Updated
We all experience WOOs along our journeys. Some come early in life; others come later. You may get a series of WOOs, while others have one big WOO. What is not obvious is the part you play in shaping your window of opportunity.
In many situations you cannot predict when or how a new WOO will open.
There are too many unknown elements. Notably, people who excel in whatever they do are ready to discover a new opportunity every day.
How do you build such readiness? What capabilities must you cultivate to respond in full when a window of opportunity opens? Before I answer these questions, here is a little more about how I stumbled onto the WOO insight.
How I discovered the WOO insight and its game-changing power
My first awareness of the acute significance of the window of opportunity phenomenon occurred at age 12. Based on my cross-country long-distance running accomplishments that year, I recognized there was a narrow window available for me to win the following year. Since I knew all the best runners in my age group, it became clear that if I focused and worked hard, I could leverage this window of opportunity to become the Israeli champion when I reached the “age 14” group. I reasoned that if I missed this window, it was unlikely to reappear for me later. I decided to respond fully, without reservations, to this WOO. The result was decisive: I won the championships.
Winning a series of championships became a seminal and formative experience. I realized that opportunity windows can unlock special efforts – that is, compelling me to take bold actions that led to my breakthrough results.
Studying WOOs, I realized that such windows can be illusive. Often, I was not aware of a given window, recognizing it only in retrospect. At times, a window was clearly defined by circumstance. In other situations, I realized I could influence and extend the window.
For example, consider your own experience in developing certain skills, meeting influential mentors, building relationships, and then shaping your career trajectory. These were likely all shaped inside a situational window.
The economic significance of windows of opportunity was revealed in my Air Force Big Bang moment. To make the cut to the next phase of the fighter pilot course, I had to demonstrate a safe takeoff and landing within a short few weeks and limited number of flights. I suddenly realized that performance is not evaluated in a vacuum. Rather, it is measured inside a defined and limited situational window.
Flying further evolved my WOO insight as I learned about the “interception window.” To get into a shooting position require entering a maneuver envelope. The interception window is a moving diagram that continually is changed based on your and your opponent's maneuvers. In the case of a dogfight, the comparative position, velocity, and maneuvering of two extremely fast flying machines determines a critically precise window of opportunity.
Windows of opportunity became a central preoccupation for me, almost an obsession. As I immersed myself in the leadership field and the changes occurring in business and the global economy, I studied the natures of the recurring patterns that arise in those systems. It became obvious to me that the WOO phenomenon is everywhere.
As I coupled the WOO awareness with the WOW insight, I realized that by bringing the whole of me to focus on a given opportunity at hand, I would be able to produce results that create and shape what becomes available and possible for me. This realization shaped how I approached the development of my consulting practice.
In our work with leaders, we help executives build innovation strategies and create new futures for their organizations by considering their opportunities. Based on our assessment of the landscape, we teach them how to shape new future opportunity windows.
The opportunity landscape is not merely “out there” in the world. It always begins within us. When leaders embark on the adventure of seeing and envisioning themselves anew and of discovering how as a team, they can address challenges in new ways, they are able to see previously hidden opportunities.
Your opportunity windows
Reflect on important crossroads you have encountered. Think about your pivotal opportunities. What directional decisions did you make that shaped your journey? Who influenced you at a critical window? Your direction-setting experiences and decisions always appear inside specific situational windows, never in a void. You always move from point A to point B.
What's the invisible side of this story? Is there a metaphysical or mystical dimension to how opportunities show up?
Just as you hope to intercept opportunities, so they seek to find you. It's a two-way, hide-and-seek discovery game. In pivotal moments of your life, if you are ready to rise to the occasion and meet the opportunity inside the window, then its potential is revealed and expressed through you.
Apply the opportunity window ARC
How can you become a WOO master today? What differentiates WOO masters – people who make the most of their opportunities – from those who are not?
Three characteristics that I have observed - awareness, readiness, and capability – together comprise what I call the opportunity window ARC.
Awareness. You study the environment to discover emerging trends while you cultivate self-awareness insights. You understand your sweet spot, personal cadence, learning style, and strengths, and you become aware of what helps you produce your best work. Heightened awareness arises from your curious and active inquiry as you focus on noticing the changes, movements, and emerging patterns of possibility around you. By being highly present in yourself and cognizant of the environment, you see WOOs that others cannot. Awareness is essential: without it, opportunity windows cannot reveal themselves.
Readiness. You build agility, resilience, and resourcefulness at all levels. Together, physical fitness, mental sharpness, and psychological and emotional resilience shape your readiness. You cultivate the resources that allow you to respond quickly when you become aware of an opportunity. Being ready to turn on a dime, move with ease, and bring to the situational window what is needed are the golden keys to making the most of your opportunities.
Capability. You constantly build new capacities and capabilities and bring a value-contribution mindset wherever you go. By building your capacity to connect the dots, produce novel insights and apply creativity, you become an asset for emerging opportunities. You focus on strengths and build framing skills to create relevancy and meaning, and to help people see the world differently. You increasingly are at ease with ambiguous evolving situations. You turn setbacks into learning and find joy in growing in new domains of knowledge. You exude confidence, center on future possibilities, and create movement that delivers results.
Now it's your turn. Turn the key. This decade of continual transformation will open many windows of opportunity for you to transform and recast not just what you do and how you do it, but also who you are becoming. Identifying and embracing opportunities is essential for you to grow and build your new futures.
Develop your awareness and readiness to respond. Bring forward your capabilities and resourcefulness. Create opportunities for yourself by helping others discover their windows of opportunity to grow and build their new futures.
© Aviv Shahar