Making the Speaking Business More Customer Focused

Learning to Manage Opportunity in the Unknown


About Daniel Burrus

Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. Burrus has delivered over 2,800 keynote speeches worldwide, and is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology  innovations and their future impact.


We all manage something in our lives. Whether we manage other people, an entire organization, sales or even just ourselves, management is part of our everyday lives and includes careful planning, well-thought-out direction and a sense of control.

What happens when we apply that definition of management to the concept of opportunity? What if we were to identify and act upon opportunity much as we arrange and then manage a meeting, a project or some other form of responsibility that takes place each day in our lives? What transformative opportunity does that foster for your organization?  

Take Anticipatory Action, Not Agile Reaction

One element of being a manager is the necessity of reacting to crises. This COVID-19 global pandemic we presently find ourselves in is the perfect example. In the wake of the coronavirus, I’m sure you have had to manage a crisis or two you never before thought plausible, yet somehow you overcome it every day.  Crisis is a form of change or disruption coming from outside of your organization that greatly impacts the status quo and must be dealt with. That is a perfect description of what the coronavirus pandemic has done to us all, no matter what industry we find ourselves in. However, COVID-19 and other forms of disruption and perceived crises aren’t the problem; the real issue is when your response as a leader is solely reactionary and habitual. No matter how agile or clever you are, repeatedly reacting to problems and issues will eventually be a never-ending cycle. This is why change must happen by way of implementing anticipation—allowing you to become an opportunity manager instead of a crisis manager.  

What Is an Opportunity Manager?

What does it mean to become an opportunity manager instead of a crisis manager? Among other things, it means being anticipatory, paying attention to the Hard Trends shaping your industry and pre-solving problems before they occur. An opportunity manager looks for opportunities, identifies them, acts on them and refines them. An opportunity manager is a positive disruptor. More specifically, here are three attributes of an opportunity manager:

  1. You Create Change Rather than Having to React to it

Instead of reacting to change, you effectively create change. Rather than reacting to an outside factor, like a nationwide shutdown of nonessential businesses that most business leaders never anticipated, you’re reversing these effects and creating change from inside your organization.

  1. You are a Positive Disruptor

As I mentioned, you create the disruption instead of being disrupted by it. This pandemic has created a “new normal”—so merely waiting for disruption to hit you is a poor choice. New innovation is needed, so creating positive disruption from inside your organization allows you to stay ahead of the innovation curve.

  1. You Use Disruption to Your Advantage

Not only do you create the change and control the disruption before it disrupts you, but you’re also the anticipatory one who’s leveraging disruption to your advantage. For example, instead of attempting to protect the status quo (as most are doing in reaction to COVID-19), you find ways to use that disruption as an opportunity to innovate, continue to serve customers and possibly even continue to offer said service once the pandemic is over.

Become an Opportunity Manager

Becoming an opportunity manager means first developing an anticipatory mindset. For instance, one of the salient principles of my Anticipatory Organization Learning System is Hard Trends, which are future certainties that you know will impact both you and your organization.

Take a few moments to consider what Hard Trends could drastically affect you, your organization and your industry as we come out of this pandemic. Likewise, think about the possible problems and opportunities that you can foresee those Hard Trends bringing with them for you or your customers. What can you do now to not only pre-solve those problems before they become detrimentally disruptive, but also leverage those Hard Trends into game-changing opportunities?

A good example of a Hard Trend is the reality that there will be greater changes in regulation of brick-and-mortar businesses as they reopen into the “new normal” COVID-19 has left us in. For example, the Las Vegas entertainment industry, which makes up nearly all business in lower Nevada and relies on in-person contact much of the time, must reopen safely. An opportunity manager looks at opportunity within the framework of both time and effort. What opportunities are more immediate and mandate less effort, and what opportunities require a longer time frame and greater commitment?

For Las Vegas, the immediate opportunities are most pertinent, and an example of an opportunity manager in this case is a local billboard printer who began making custom-fitted plexiglass shields, allowing individuals to play cards at a table while being separated from one another.

In the face of the unknown, it is time to transform your role from a crisis manager to an opportunity manager. The playing field has been leveled, so learn how to become a positive disruptor.


To Learn more about Daniel contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]