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How to Actually Turn Crisis Into Opportunity

Yeah, I know. “Turning crisis into opportunity” is a popular meme on social media, and it sounds very encouraging. The problem is, how do you actually pull it off?  When you’re faced with a financial disaster, business dropping, donors leaving, markets changing or other unexpected problem, how can you turn your worst moments into your best moments?  Albert Einstein said, “Out of clutter, find simplicity.  From discord, find harmony.  In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” Very inspiring, right? But during a crisis, it’s hard to find the silver lining.

A crisis is a remarkable and ironic thing. It makes normally successful people crumble, but for others, it’s a powerful stepping stone to greatness. The most experienced people can become mediocre and the less experienced often find new ways to grow.  

The question you need to ask during a calamity of any kind is: How are needs shifting during the crisis, and how can you meet those needs?  After all, innovation isn’t just about timing – it’s about meeting an unmet need.  During periods of success, we often forget about meeting needs and get distracted by the good times. But a crisis is a powerful reminder that success should always be built on finding a need or problem and solving it.

And it’s not always about being first. For instance:

Netscape was the first web browser.  But whatever happened to that?

Napster was the first music downloading service and it left a powerful legacy. It’s still around, but it’s a very small player these days.

But early adopters do have an advantage over larger more traditional platforms:

For a long time, The Huffington Post got more web traffic that the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and The Economist combined.

Even the gossip site Perezhilton.com gets as much as 15 times more traffic than nationalenquirer.com. 

During the financial crisis more than a decade ago, some leaders choked. They worried so much about what they were losing, and not enough about what was changing. In the future, I believe crises will become a way of life. So stop thinking about a crisis as a disaster, and start thinking about crisis as simply doing business. 

In other words, to navigate your next crisis, stop protecting what you have and start focusing on what’s next.

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6 Comments

  1. “In the future, I believe crises will become a way of life.” Phil, what types of crises are you anticipating to amp up?

    1. I think there’s a lot of “crises” that will become part of our lives in the future. For instance, the digital revolution is upending jobs. The future is going to look quite different when it comes to careers, and we need to be constantly adapting. Also, economic uncertainty will always be around. Prosperous times are always followed by difficult times – especially as we see a younger generation move toward socialism. Perhaps most important is something my friend Kevin Kelly wrote recently, that the typical app updates every 30 days now – which means that from this point on we will all be newbies – learning, unlearning, and relearning on a constant basis. That will be a huge shift in our thinking….

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