Innovation of Business

and the
Business of Innovation™
Innovating Opportunies

The Core Secret to Outrageous Success

An opportunity is a chance to perform.  To turn work into salary, products into profits, and investment into returns.  To grow acquaintances into relationships and relationships into friendships.  To innovate something new, better, and more desirable.

The paths of our lives, personal or corporate, depend on opportunities – those we perceive, those we grasp, and those we leverage into greater potential.  Chances we miss can have as much impact as those we seize.  Chances tried but not realized make as big a difference as those we turn into dramatic success.

If success is tied to opportunity, then what do outrageously successful people know about opportunity that we don’t?  The answer is shockingly simple.  This kind of success isn’t a matter of being smarter, better looking, better financed, or working harder.  Outrageous success requires becoming agents of change.  Outrageous success is a matter of applying “the marketing touch.”

The touch is made of five distinct skill sets built into a system of behaviors.  Using all five skills together can create momentum of success toward our most cherished goals.  When used right, the touch delivers a never ending stream of the opportunities we most want.

The Basic Opportunity System

The internal technical-services group of a large corporate client contracted me to discover both opportunities for their services and how to leverage those opportunities.  I gained appointments with their business-unit clients and asked, among other questions, how they chose sources of technical services.  Their answers commonly started with, “Relationships.  If I know someone, or if one of my team knows someone, we go there first."


The Basic Opportunity System

Relationships deliver opportunities.
Opportunities enable relationships


Relationships!  A network of relationships.  Relationships are the first source of opportunities.  Existing relationships have already bridged gaps.  They’ve created loyalty.  A history with a resource changes decision behaviors at every level from personal to corporate.

We put newcomers on trial and closely monitor performance.  Early success builds trust; continued performance creates loyalty; and a durable relationship begins.  Of course trust works the other way, too.  If our resource lets us down or fails to perform up to expectations, then trust is compromised.  That resource goes back on trial at best, and may never get another chance at worst.

We’ve just laid out in words the core elements of the basic opportunity system.  Let’s show it in a simple drawing.  Please see it as a continuous loop.

A “system” is a set of entities connected, arranged, and related to form an organic whole.  When we use the word “system”, we speak about the whole, with all its links and influences.  The basic opportunity system has these four parts:


Positive Relationships are based on trust developed via interactions.  Relationships build a core of loyalty able to stand many of the tests of time.

Opportunities arise from relationships.  We give opportunities to those we know and trust.  An opportunity is a chance to perform.

Performance at or above expectations creates trust.  Poor performance kills trust and loyalty.

Trust strengthens relationships and improves the probability of future opportunities.

Take a moment to read that list again.  See that system as the integration of parts, each influencing and being influenced by the other parts.  See it as a whole that is broken when any part is missing.  As a color spectrum so important that anyone blind to one or more colors is disadvantaged.  As a tool kit so tightly integrated that working without all four tools means that jobs are never fully completed or done quite right.

The marketing touch is the natural or acquired talent for leveraging this whole system for a never-ending flow of the opportunities we most want.  The core secret is “doing the loop,” managing all four elements for optimum impact.  That’s it!  Ultra simple.  Relationships deliver opportunities.  Opportunities enable relationships.

Well… maybe not so simple.  Doing the loop isn’t all that easy.


The Four Basic Skills

What skills do we need to do the loop?  What skills as individuals?  What skills as a team?

Marketing skills:  Abilities to generate opportunities.  To create value propositions based on clear understanding of markets and customers.  To speak to others from their perspectives and convey potential solutions.  To open doors where none existed.

Performance skills:  Expertise and experience in one or more technical disciplines needed for the work we want to do.  Also, related expertise such as leadership, management, project management, people management, collaboration, and communication.  Abilities we need to perform at or above expectations of our stakeholders.

Character skills:  Integrity and authenticity.  Abilities to choose core principles of business and life.  To integrate what we believe with how we behave.  To ensure that trust developed through performance is not compromised through blunders elsewhere.

Relationship skills:  People skills to initiate, sustain, and manage relationships.  Abilities to network, then turn contacts into rapport.  To relate to ensure durability of relationships.  To properly leverage relationships for win-win.  

We need all four skill sets to do the loop:  Marketing skills to generate opportunities, discipline skills to perform, people skills for relationships, and character skills to become and remain trustworthy.

Technical professionals, myself included, often focus on performance.  We work at the bottom of the loop and exercise our technical excellence.  We believe in our hearts that trust in that excellence is enough to create new opportunities.  Though we continue to survive, a vast majority of us have very little idea of how to leverage good work into better opportunities.

The truth is that we simply can’t achieve success, ordinary or outrageous, with just the tools of our technical profession.  We may achieve high respect among peers and even gain the admiration of higher management, customers, and clients.  Still, we’ll never earn ten times the average in our professions.  We’ll never gain the most cherished opportunities and promotions.  We’ll never be seen as top performers.  Not until we develop the marketing touch.


The Opportunity Ladder

To simplify initial concepts, I’ve left something out.  Just a small detail.

Opportunities are not all equal.

The opportunity to do what someone else says is not the same as a chance to set strategies for a global company.  The opportunity to work for $10 per hour is not the same as the chance to make $1000 per hour.

Doing the loop doesn’t guarantee outrageous success.  The loop only guarantees more success by delivering more opportunities.  To achieve outrageous success, we need a system that delivers ever better opportunities.

Visualize the basic opportunity system as a two-dimensional loop lying flat on a table.  Then visualize the outrageous opportunity system as an upward spiral, the basic system pulled up and up by higher expectations of ourselves.  Visualize how excellent performance might build enough trust to create new levels of relationship which deliver a new levels of opportunity.  Seen edge on, the spiral can look like a ladder, so let’s conceive of an opportunity spiral pegged to an “opportunity ladder.”  On our ladder, the bottom rung is where we started, and the top rung is the highest we think we could ever go.

The fifth skill, then, is visioning:  Abilities to see a potential future and describe it in enough detail to enable practical action.  To, in this case, see a personal or team future as we work our way up our opportunity ladder.  To look beyond what we know we can achieve to what we would love to do if only we had the chance.  Opportunity visioning is not about sustaining our current position.  It is about changing ourselves, over and over, to reach outrageous success.


Breaking into the Loop

OK.  All the good old boys are set,  They’ve been doing this for years.  They’re already in the loop and working it to their advantage.  What about the rest of us?  How do we get started?  Back in my market research project the most frequent answer was, "Be proactive!  Come meet us.  Come learn how we do business and what kinds of problems we face.”

Be proactive!  What marvelous advice.  Take the initiative.  Be outgoing.  Take risks.  Proactivity fits all five skills.  It fits all personality types.  It changes the playing field, step by step.  It is an ongoing practice as important as any of the five skills.

Proactivity means innovating our own careers.  Innovating our own teams and companies.  It means innovating a range of skills outside our normal comfort zone.  Good “spiral skills” enable movement with greater confidence and flexibility.  Those skills deliver power and control over our lives.

Climbing the spiral means moving on to achieve our potential, yet it need not deny our past.  Each step upward opens new doors, yet doesn’t necessarily close doors behind us.  Perhaps the most important movement skill is sustaining those key relationships that deserve to last a lifetime.

Are you ready?  The time for change is now, and it always will be.  



11. "Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow." William Pollard (famed businessman)

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