The Opportunity Mindset is the methodology used to create the Global Opportunity Report. It is a structured process designed to create momentum for change and to discover and prioritize strategy choices. It does this by uncovering opportunities for growth and development. In the process the Opportunity Mindset engages a wide range of an organization’s stakeholders, resulting in both better insights into the potential of the opportunities and stronger relations to crucial stakeholder groups.
In the Global Opportunity Report we apply the Opportunity Mindset to the great global sustainability challenges facing business and society today, but it is a flexible methodology that lends its strengths equally well to any organization that wishes to create change by exploring the opportunities for growth and development.
The Opportunity Mindset operates with two basic concepts: Risks and Opportunities. Risks are the global systemic sustainability challenges, and opportunities are the strategic options that the process uncovers and tests.
In the Global Opportunity Report, the risks are defined by four criteria:
Global scale: We might not all be hit directly by them, but the risks must have at least an indirect global impact and be significant enough to make headlines everywhere. In addition, the risks must be felt by multiple stakeholders.
Timely: The risks must be felt now, or must be expected to be felt within the next ten years from the launch of the report. The time to take action is now and in the coming decade.
Actionable: We must be able to act upon the risks to counter the negative effects springing from them. This implies that they are not too big or overarching (like resource scarcity, rising levels of atmospheric CO2, or global warming) but are more focused e.g. extreme weather, increased greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture or from energy use, or a lack of fresh water.
Systemic in nature: The risks have far reaching consequences, and they requires multi-stakeholder action to be effectively addressed.
Three elements define the term ‘opportunities’ in the Global Opportunity Report:
First, opportunities are always inspired by and address a risk or challenge of global importance. We do not presume to make the point that the opportunities highlighted in the report are the only opportunities in existence, but we do believe that each of them offers considerable value to societies.
Second, opportunities are defined as opportunities for societies, not just for individuals or businesses. This does not imply that they cannot also represent opportunities for individuals or businesses – most often they will – only that the opportunities must first and foremost generate significant benefits for societies at large.
Third, opportunities must be sustainable. They must put societies on a more sustainable trajectory. In this respect we define sustainability as it was originally phrased in the Brundtland report: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The Opportunity Mindset comprises of a series of steps. Each of these add to the outcome but also produce valuable take-away in themselves.
Identification of risks: in this step the challenges of greatest importance to the organization are identified. These are the starting point for the rest of the work. Often organizations have a rather well defined picture of their challenges.
Turning risks into opportunities: Through a series of engagements with internal and external stakeholders the risks are discussed and we harvest stakeholders’ ideas for how to turn them into opportunities.
Validating opportunities: The input from stakeholders is analyzed and refined into a set of opportunities for each of the risks. Typically we identify three to four opportunities for each risk.
Testing the opportunities: The resulting opportunities are tested against vital stakeholder groups to add knowledge of the resonance they create in different regions, demographics groups or industry sectors.
Reporting: The results of the process is communicated. Choice of format and style depends on how the analysis will be used consequently.
Doing the annual Global Opportunity Report is a 12-month process. Depending on the scope of the analysis, a full analysis can be made in 4-6 months for smaller organizations. We recommend that an anchoring or roll out phase is planned following the analysis phase.
The Opportunity Mindset is unique, but is shares element and understandings with other theories of change and innovation.
The basis for the model is an understanding of a socio-technical system – how society and technology interact and develop – that lends much of its vocabulary and analytical perspective from the Multi-Level Perspective-theory of innovation studies developed by Professor Frank Geels of Manchester University.
Where MLP stratifies a socio-technical system into three layers or landscape, regimes and niches the Opportunity Mindset translates this into Risks, Opportunities and Solutions.
The MLP adds an understanding of the systemic nature of regimes/opportunities and how changing these often needs multiple stakeholders to shift positions.
A crucial elements of the Opportunity Mindset is the opportunity panels. These are workshops that convene stakeholders and thought leaders to identify “proto-opportunities”; the ideas for wise responses to the risks that come from the collective insights of participants. The selection of participants in the workshops and the role of these in the process is inspired by Lead User theory developed especially by professor Eric von Hippel of MIT, Sloan School of Management, though the participants are not necessarily lead users themselves.
The Opportunity Mindset shares many basic ideas with John Kotter’s change management model. In his 8-step change model, the Opportunity Mindset helps organizations address the first four.