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What Is Opportunity Engineering?

Jan Fletcher
Jan Fletcher

Opportunity engineering is a business strategy employed to reduce risk while also seizing opportunities to harness that risk for positive gain. The theory behind opportunity engineering is that inherent opportunities tend to reside within an atmosphere of uncertainty. Akin to the concept of surfing, opportunity engineering seeks to harness the power of that risk by riding atop a wave of dynamic change. Opportunities that arise amid an atmosphere of uncertainty present a limited window of time, in which companies may seize those opportunities. This business approach sees risk as a positive force in business, and not something to avoid.

Linear thinking has been the traditional approach and is still widely considered the appropriate response to predictable situations. Linear thought processes exemplify a traditional linear factory model. Predictability is desired and cultivated. Unexpected developments are considered interruptions to be avoided.

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On the other hand, dynamically emerging environments create an atmosphere of unpredictability that limits the effectiveness of linear problem solving. Using a dynamic approach, this business concept seeks adaptive strategies to risks while simultaneously aiming to minimize negative impacts. At the same time, companies also use this strategy to expand those profitable opportunities that may emerge from within these dynamically changing business environments.

An opportunity model of business views risk as an ideal way in which to make those innovative leaps that will carry the biggest impact. Those who manage these opportunities do try to reduce undesirable risk. When naturally emerging risk presents opportunities, however, the opportunity engineer will use a structured paradigm for developing those opportunities.

Uncertain opportunities demand flexible management, and therein lies the biggest impediment to implementing opportunity engineering. To create a mindset of innovative thinking required for this business model, managers may need training in overcoming risk aversion. This business strategy is typically implemented in stages, over time.

Risk aversion is not just a strategy, but a psychological attribute that may be ingrained in personnel, and it will require time to change the old way of thinking. In opportunity engineering, managers are assigned responsibility to systematically identify potentially rich yielding opportunities. Using mathematical models and careful analysis, the focus is on managing, not avoiding, risk.

Seizing emerging risks in business is not akin to gambling, but rather to harnessing the power of change. Although beneficial opportunities for business innovation may arise through market risks, there are other types of risks in business that are best eliminated. These include risks of injury to staff, medical emergencies, and interruptions of business operations due to natural disasters or calamities.

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