Opportunity Discovery Process

Have you got a problem or challenge and not sure how to tackle it?

Opportunity Discovery, a process developed by George Land, is useful for solving both existing problems and identifying future opportunities.

There are seven steps in the Opportunity Discovery Process:

  1. 1
    Describe Desired Outcome
  2. 2
    Identify Resources
  3. 3
    Describe New Behaviors
  4. 4
    Prioritize Behaviors
  5. 5
    Assess Current Performance
  6. 6
    Map Opportunities
  7. 7
    Develop Action Plan

To Illustrate This Process Let's Use an Example

Your team is having a lot of-in-fighting and tension. you believe much of this occurs because people let things build up until they explode.

You want to fix this problem and you've decided to use the Opportunity Discovery Process with your team.

Step 1. Describe the Desired Outcome

This step is as simple as, clearly and succinctly, stating what you want to accomplish or have happen. Stephen Covey refers to this as 'begin with the end in mind'. Let's say your end goal is, "The Team Gives Each Other Direct and Relationship-Enhancing Feedback"

Step 2. Identify Resources

At this stage, with your team, brainstorm your current weaknesses and strengths, related to your desired outcome.

The focus here, is simply on identifying your starting point so you can make sure you make good use of your team's strengths and create work-arounds for any weaknesses.

This step shouldn't take you too long at all.

Step 3. Describe New Behaviors

Now is the time to future focus. Here you turn your undivided attention toward what it is you are creating. You do this by using sensory rich language, that describes the qualities, characteristics and behaviors that you will use to achieve your outcome.

An easy way to create sensory rich examples is to answer these questions.  

What will you and your team members:

  • SEE once this change happens that you're not SEEING  now?
  • FEEL once this change happens that you're not FEELING now?
  • BE DOING once this change happens that you're not DOING now?
  • HEAR once this change happens that you're not HEARING NOW?

There is no need to worry about the 'how-tos' at this point. That comes in the Action Planning Stage.

So don't limit yourselves, just because you don't know how you are going to do it. At this point you are simply identifying those characteristics you will need to have for success (some of them the team may already have identified as their strengths, so make sure you include them too).

What qualities, characteristics and behaviors might people have if they are giving each direct and relationship-enhancing feedback?

Maybe a few might be:

  1. 1
    Open and Receptive
  2. 2
    Listening Intently Before Speaking
  3. 3
    Provide Feedback Quickly, With Respect
  4. 4
    Limiting judgments

Step 4. Prioritize Behaviors

The next step is to decide where to place your focus and priority.

You do this by comparing each of the behaviors you identified in the previous step, and rank and prioritize. Number each behavior and then compare it to each of the other behaviors in your list.

All you need to do is ask yourself this question, "On 15 October 20xx we have achieved our outcome of giving direct and relationship-enhancing feedback. Of all the behaviors and characteristics we have used, which of these current two we are comparing, was more important to our success?"

The key here is that this isn't an either or choice - it is a relative choice. It's simply making the choice which of the two was more important.

So let's look at our example. Between the two behaviors 'open and receptive' and 'listening intently' decide which is more important and circle its number. Let's say you feel #1 is more important - then you'd circle it.

Next compare the first behavior (open and receptive) with the third attribute (provide feedback quickly). If you feel 'open and receptive' is less important than 'provide feedback' you would circle #3

Next compare the first behavior with the fourth and so forth. Once you have compared the first behavior with all other behaviors on your list, you then move to the second behavior and begin the process in the same way. You have already compared #2 with #1 so you begin by comparing #2 with #3.

If you have ten attributes your completed chart would look something like this (nb current performance is not rated until the next step):

Next, you total the scores to identify the behavior that you feel is most important to success in achieving your outcome. In this example the highest priority is for Item #5 which scored 7.

This process is best done individually before coming together as a team to compare results. Combine the individual results to determine the group score. You can do this by averaging or by discussing each person's perspective and agreeing to the priority order. Either way has advantages and disadvantages.

Getting each person to score as an individual, and then comparing each individual's ranking, enables the team to have a very rich and dynamic discussion about each person's viewpoint.

Whilst you may feel it may be quicker to prioritize as a team, and skip the individual rankings, unless the team is very high performing, you may find that some people's true opinions and insights may not be surfaced - which as you can imagine could have disastrous effects.

Step 5. Assess Current Performance

Now it is time to rate how well you are currently performing. This can sometimes be challenging for the team, however, this is an important step as it provides the springboard for improvement and achieving the results you desire.

Again, do this step individually before coming to the group consensus.

Simply rate on a scale of:

0 = We Don't Do It At All


100 = We Are Highly Competent

Knowing the behaviors that are a high priority, and in which you currently have low performance, identifies the areas of greatest opportunity.

Step 6. Map Opportunities

The Opportunity Map lets you see graphically your areas of greatest opportunity. Simply plot the scores from the Prioritize Behaviors and Assess Current Performance on the graph.

So, using the example above Item #1 has a Priority Value of 6 and a Current Performance of 25% which places it in the Opportunities Quadrant.

The Upper Left Quadrant are the Satisfiers. These are the areas that you are currently doing well and are important to you. You will want to ensure that performance in this area remains constant.

The Lower Left Quadrant are the Overkills. Here, you have the areas that are low in importance, but you are doing well. You might want to decide if you are spending too much time and energy on these things, and shift your attention to other areas that have more importance to your successful performance.

The Lower Right Quadrant are the Gripes. Here are the things you don't do well, and aren't a high priority for the team. People will often gripe about these things, but they simply aren't important enough to actually expend any effort in fixing. Again, here you may want to help the team to redirect its energy to something that has a more meaningful impact on their success.

The Upper Right Quadrant are the Opportunities. This is the area where you have the greatest need, to focus your attention to make sure that the outcome you want to achieve is indeed achieved.

Step 7. Create an Action Plan

The final step is to create the 'what-to-dos' for the behaviors you have identified as opportunities. You need to decide

  • Who
  • Will do what
  • By when

The Opportunity Discovery process can take as much or as little time as you wish.

It is a very useful process to help your team get focused and agreed upon where to put their energy and attention.

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