Five benefits of looking for the opportunities in a crisis

The Dead Parrot Sketch: John Cleese and Michael Palin

We’re not going to discover penicillin or invent blue jeans with every tricky situation we face. But having an attitude that approaches problems as if they contain opportunities will immediately bring us five benefits, whether or not we then find a world-changing solution.

The five benefits are:

  1. A Feeling of Inspiration and Emotional Engagement
    Seeking to do more than just fix the problem brings inspiration and emotional engagement. It’s more fun. This positive attitude is exciting to be around and it’s good for morale, which improves productivity and results.
    “A leader,” Napoleon said, “is a dealer in hope.” Looking for the opportunities creates that hope.
  2. Deeper Understanding
    Searching for the opportunities in a situation forces us to let go of our mistaken assumptions about the situation. It forces us to look past the surface symptoms and seek a deeper understanding. This understanding will be useful, no matter what direction we eventually choose to move forward in.
  3. Greater Durability and Impact
    When John Cleese was writing sketches with the Monty Python team his colleagues would often stop when they got to the first punchline. Cleese would keep working until he found the second, third, or even fifth level of comedy. This was harder work and took longer, but the results he created were stronger, funnier, and longer lasting.
    If you want to generate outcomes that are more remarkable, last longer, or connect at a deeper level than your competitors, look for the opportunities that lie beyond the first solution or quick fix.
  4. More Choice, Control, and Determination
    By looking for the opportunities in a situation you retain more control over your own destiny. The opportunities you find give you new possibilities to choose from. Then you can respond in a deliberate, focused way. Even if you choose the same way forward, it becomes a choice you have made, rather than a reflex you were forced into. And by exploring the alternatives, you become sure you have chosen the best way forward, which brings added vigour to your implementation.
  5. Antifragility
    Looking for the opportunities in a situation is a step towards making us and our organisations what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls ‘antifragile’.
    Objects, people, and organisations that break under stress we call ‘fragile’.
    Objects, people, and organisations that survive when placed under stress we call ‘robust’, ‘strong, or ‘resilient’.
    And objects, people, and organisations that actually become stronger under stress, Taleb calls ‘antifragile’.
    Choosing to look for the opportunities in a situation is the first step to making ourselves antifragile.

This is what The Churning’s Inner Leadershipis ultimately about: creating leaders who bring inspiration and emotional engagement, who generate deeper understanding, remain in control, and look for robust ways forward that last. Leaders who, ultimately, know how to use the stress of any situation to make themselves and their organisations stronger, antifragile.

This is a journey that begins the moment you decide to look for the opportunities in a crisis.

Are the five benefits listed above useful for you? Would you like to become more inspiring, have a deeper understanding, create solutions that last, remain more in control, or use change to become stronger? When was the last time you looked for the opportunities in a crisis?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Eduardo Unda-Sanzana via

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