I have to admit, when I first heard the phrase ‘opportunity-maker’, I thought of politicians talking about businesses ‘creating jobs’. And sure, the stats suggest that small businesses employ the most Aussies (compared to medium and big business). Looking up the actual numbers, there are nearly 30,000 small business owners who employ people – opportunity-makers in that sense of the word[i].

But that’s not how Kare Anderson sees it. She’s a former high-profile journo from the States, who’s worked for the Wall Street Journal and TV network NBC. Now she’s on the speaking circuit, doing keynote presentations and talks on how to “become more quotable, connected, and collaborative”. She presented a TED talk where she said:

“So my idea to reimagine the world is to see it one where we all become greater opportunity-makers with and for others. There’s no greater opportunity or call for action for us now than to become opportunity-makers who use best talents together more often for the greater good and accomplish things we couldn’t have done on our own. And I want to talk to you about that, because even more than giving, even more than giving, is the capacity for us to do something smarter together for the greater good that lifts us both up and that can scale.

(…) Just remember, as Dave Liniger once said, ‘You can’t succeed coming to the potluck with only a fork.’”

In other words, being an opportunity-maker means leveraging the skills and strengths of ourselves and our networks to get things done collaboratively. It means having something good to bring to the table, and being a person who actively connects people around you, so they can get together and do good stuff.

Her example was about how she connected a couple of friends of hers who eventually got a piece of city regulation passed. That really resonated with me, I’ve often chatted with random neighbours about things that would be nice for our little corner of the community; it would be great if we could actually get together and campaign for some of the things we discuss. But there are lots of other lessons you could take from Kare Anderson’s TED talk.

  1. Work on your own special skillsIf you think about it (which a lot of people don’t for fear of being immodest), you’re better at certain things than a lot of other people are. Conversely, you can’t be an asset to a project or a helper to someone else unless you’re particularly good at something. That’s why it’s important to hone your top skills and constantly keep learning.
  1. Step outside your usual circlesLooking for that awesome revolutionary business idea? Chances are it won’t come from partnering with someone with the same background as you. Fresh ideas and perspective are most likely to come from someone with a totally different cultural, socioeconomic and/or work background to you.
  2. Always be on the look outWhen you’re talking to someone about something they’re passionate about or something they want to do, wrack your brain and think if you know anyone who thinks the same way, or even if you could help them yourself. If you think of a great connection – that meeting that has to happen – don’t be afraid to pipe up.

It takes a bit of time to get in to the habit, but once you get there, you can’t stop. You’ll be seeing opportunities everywhere.

[i] http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1516/Employ