11. Opportunity: The Intersection of Desire & Accountability
Opportunities are either taken or missed, intentionally or unintentionally. A simple quadrant can depict this (shown in text here):
Taken – Intentionally
Taken – Unintentionally
Missed – Intentionally
Missed - Unintentionally
The high-level rationale behind these categories is simple:
An opportunity was taken because either 1) there was value in doing so (i.e. intentional) or, 2) it just happened without awareness (i.e. unintentional)
An opportunity was missed because either 1) there wasn’t value in it (i.e. intentional) or, 2) there wasn’t awareness of it (i.e. unintentional)
The detailed rationale for each is much more complex and warrants examination on a case-by-case basis, which is beyond the scope of this article.
Intentional vs. Unintentional
Opportunities taken unintentionally could be considered luck, which ironically is sometimes defined as “when preparation meets opportunity” (circular reference). Opportunities missed unintentionally can only be assessed in terms of why or how they were missed, since they never actually came to fruition for a given individual or entity.
Exploration of opportunity is best done on those taken or missed intentionally. Intention is important because it means elements of foresight, risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis and feasibility come into play.
What is the Opportunity Intersection?
Opportunity is the intersection of desire and accountability (see Intersection 11 image below). It is the presentation of a decision, or set of decisions, to be made about the future. Individuals and companies face an unending stream of opportunity prospects. So how do they decide which opportunities are worth it and which aren’t?
Desire is key to opportunity because it’s emotional and not always logical. Additionally, desire can blur clarity when it comes to risk. That said, desire is powerful. It can make the impossible possible.
In people and in organizations, desire creates and validates intention. Desire is predicated on the recognition that an opportunity exists. Without recognition there is no knowledge of something that may or may not be desirable.
Desire isn’t just applicable in opportunities that are taken. It’s also a strong force when it comes to intentionally not taking, or missing, opportunities. This happens when desire isn’t strong enough to justify the risks involved or when there is a complete lack of desire for an opportunity and the appeal of avoidance is greater.
Intersection 11: Opportunity = Desire + Accountability
Accountability is the perfect partner to desire when it comes to opportunity. The requirement for accountability influences desire or lack of it. The person or entity making the decision about whether to take or leave an opportunity bears the accountability for that decision and usually everything that comes after it.
“Everything that comes after it” includes the work, the costs, the impacts and the results (positive and negative) if the opportunity is taken. It includes ‘what could have been’ or ‘what was avoided’ if the opportunity is missed.
Accountability is present at each stage in the opportunity lifecycle. Someone (or the company) has to take accountability for:
Making a decision about it
Acting on the decision to take it
Acting on the decision to miss it
The results / impacts
Together, desire and accountability form the basis for how and why decisions are made about opportunities taken or missed.
What Can Leaders Do?
Leaders should advocate for the identification of opportunities. Without opportunities, people and businesses stagnate.
Leaders should clearly communicate that opportunity identification does not guarantee opportunity pursual. Unfettered, rampant opportunity identification can be inefficient, so reasonable boundaries should be set. These boundaries will be different in each team and company based on the people, culture and type of work being done.
Wrap Up & Up Next
Balancing desire and accountability in the evaluation of opportunities promotes innovation and improves decision-making skills, which is important at all levels in an organization. Opportunity ultimately drives strategy in all businesses.
Next time we’ll examine the 12th intersection of performance, which is the Relevance Intersection.
In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.