To turn problems into opportunities we just need to change perspective. Saying it is easy, putting it into practice is a little more difficult. Often we are so emotionally involved in the situation that it is difficult for us to take the necessary psychological distance to realize the opportunities that lurk behind any alleged obstacle. Individual trees prevent us from seeing the forest, so we get involved in the situation.
What does history teach us in relation to dealing with problems
It all began in 1869 when Henry John Heinz, an American businessman from Bavaria, founded a packaged food company at the age of 25 that would spread to over 200 countries. But his path to success wasn't always easy or straightforward.
In 1898, when things were going very well, a rival company, the Campbell Preserve Company, launched its first brand of canned soup. Campbell's product was delicious and three times cheaper than Heinz's, gaining a huge market share. While Campbell's sales soared, Heinz's dropped.
Heinz soon discovered his rival's secret soup recipe, but even by imitating it he failed to be successful. Sales were not what he expected. So, with their son, they decided to change their perspective and tackle the problem differently. If they couldn't improve the soup, they would have made a better pot.
At that time the cans were still sealed with lead solder, a highly toxic material that caused poisoning over time. In addition, the production process was slow and the sterilization left something to be desired. Then they introduced one of the most radical changes in the canning industry: the pressure-sealed container, which not only offered greater food safety, but also allowed for increased production.
The rest is history. In the following years, Heinz expanded his business around the world, far surpassing Campbell.
How to turn problems into opportunities?
• Identify the problem
It may seem like a self-evident truth, but many times when we are faced with a problem, we are not very clear what it is. Problems can be confusing and complex, especially life problems. Defense mechanisms work against us and can hide the true source of the conflict from us, especially when we are emotionally involved.
In fact, Albert Einstein used to tell his students that if he only had an hour to solve the biggest problem in the world, it would take 55 minutes to define it because when he knew the causes, it would only take 5 minutes to find a solution. . So the first step in turning problems into opportunities is to determine exactly what we need to solve. And for this we must precisely identify what the problem consists of.
• Develop a curious attitude
Curiosity has no prejudices. It does not judge or pigeonhole. It remains open. And this is essential for solving problems or detecting opportunities. The story of Georges de Mestral proves this. In 1941 the Swiss engineer took a hike with his dog to the Alps but when they got home they were covered in smudges.
At first, de Mestral was bothered by the work involved in removing burrs from clothes, but then he was curious to know how these things stuck so much to fabrics. He examined them under a microscope and discovered small hooks that sunk into the fabric. Thus was born the idea of the velcro!
How many people before de Mestral cursed the smudges that stubbornly stuck to their clothes? How many people scornfully eliminated them? When we curse, fear or avoid problems and treat them as enemies, we become blind and miss opportunities for growth. Instead, when we look at them with curiosity, a completely new perspective can open up before us that leads us to the solution.
• Change the perspective
To turn problems into opportunities, we need to change the perspective. This means that we stop seeing problems as mere obstacles and start seeing them as opportunities for change. It's tough, but it's worth a try.
Changing the perspective does not mean that we are happy with what has happened to us, because it usually bothers us that they take us out of our comfort zone, it is enough not to unleash a storm in a glass of water. It means being aware that every situation always has two sides, even if at first we may not be able to see the positive side.
It will help us to remember that we cannot choose our problems, but we do have the power to decide how to react to them. We must keep in mind that problems cease to be problems when we stop considering them as problems. And this happens when we become aware of the opportunities or teachings they contain.
• Overcoming immobility by looking for solutions
Sometimes adversity takes us by surprise and stifles our ability to react. After the first impact, we must overcome the paralysis and get to work, because the positive attitude and curiosity are not enough to transform problems into viable opportunities.
At this stage it is important to try to open our minds and take an emotional distance from the problem. We can ask ourselves, for example: how would a friend solve it? Or we can brainstorm to find original and innovative solutions. We just have to take note of everything that comes to our mind, no matter how crazy it is.
Therefore, we must make sure that we apply the solution that seems most appropriate to us, always bearing in mind that there are no good or bad solutions. The right thing is what works for us and makes us feel better, helps us resolve the problem or conflict. There are many ways to get from point A to point B. It doesn't have to be a straight line. We just have to get to where we want to go.
It is important not to get stuck searching for the perfect solution because it is likely that we will never find it. We simply have to put it into practice and adapt it along the way. We need to think more in terms of progress, not perfection.