Every Problem is an Opportunity

William Sahlman: If you view all problems as opportunities, and then you think about ways to re-engineer a process, then I think you find opportunity is absolutely everywhere.

Opportunities come in many different forms.  So, for example, I could get someone to answer a series of questions, like “What’s the worse customer experience you have?”  And could you go through systematically and talk about what was wrong with that customer interaction and ways in which we might improve it?  So if you start with a problem, indeed, if you view all problems as opportunities, and then you think about ways to re-engineer a process, then I think you find opportunity is absolutely everywhere.

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We Can Teach People to Recognize Opportunity

We can train people how to get control of resources like money or to recruit and build teams, or to structure sensible strategies.

Going back 30, 40 years, people thought about entrepreneurship and were trying to figure out what was different about these folks and the activities they were engaged in and they had a number of theories.  One theory said it was a personality trait.  In fact, some research said you had to have a domineering mother to be an entrepreneur.  Now, I often in audiences ask how many people had a domineering mother and some portion of the audience always says yes.

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"When you are part of a failed venture, as long as you didn’t lie, cheat, or steal," says Sahlman, "then you’re considered experienced. And in fact, to the extent people learn from the mistakes that they made, then they can go on and do something special."