Move your people from operators to opportunists

Roger La Salle
Tags: maintenance and reliability

How many people really understand the difference between being an operator and an opportunist?


People are usually hired by businesses to perform a job function, usually defined in a job description or specification. Indeed, the performance of many job functions is measured by key performance indicators (KPIs) and bonuses are often tied to achieving these. However, is that sufficient?


In these fast-moving times, with new and better products, processes and services at every turn, and the unforseen market turbulence of recent times, many business have recognized the need for change. Formal innovation programs have now been established as a means of equipping people with the tools that may enable them to go beyond their designated job function to add extra, perhaps even breakthrough, value to the business.


In addition to the innovation endeavor, a new horizon of “opportunity” has now emerged as a means to move staff from operatives to opportunists, and the business risks in doing so are virtually non-existent.


What is an opportunity?
Unlike the dictionary, which defines the word opportunity as “fortunate intersection of events” – which is essentially “luck” and leads you nowhere in the opportunity search – a better definition of opportunity is: “an observed fortunate set of circumstances”.


Indeed, opportunities do not occur in nature, opportunities only occur though human observation.


Take the realization of gravity as the force that pulls everything towards the earth. Gravity has been in place since the birth of the planets, but it was not until 1665 that Isaac Newton made the observation that all things fall to the ground that led to his understanding of gravity and his gravitational equations that even today underpin much of physics.


If we accept this definition for the word opportunity, and its key word “observed”, we can actually work to teach our people the fundamentals of observation that routinely result in an opportunity.


Can you teach people the art of opportunity capture?


Essentially, the search for an opportunity requires just five fundamental observation criteria and eight ways of working on each of these observations in order to explore new and different wealth-generation activities for your business.


Opportunism does not have to be a matter of luck as many people may think. In fact, the systematic search for an opportunity is perhaps a more reliable way of finding new business horizons than some of the quite abstract creative-thinking techniques or innovation programs. Further, the beauty of opportunism is that it is largely market driven, and of course markets are the key to business growth.


Where to from here?
While innovation and its techniques may be one way to think about ways to build a business, remember, opportunism should also be embraced and perhaps be given some considerable weight in you business development program. If you can move your people from operatives to opportunists, the outcome for the business will be extraordinary, and the risk in doing so is virtually non-existent.


About the author:

Roger La Salle is the creator of the "Matrix Thinking" technique and is a widely sought after as an international speaker on innovation, opportunity and business development. He is the author of three books, director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups, and in 2004 was a regular panelist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005, he was appointed to the "Chair of Innovation" at “The Queens University" in Belfast. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries. For more information, visit

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