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Why Seeds of Success Sprout from the Problem?

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Amanaging director recently told me that behind every problem there was an opportunity. “But this year that expression has really hit home with me,” he said. “So much so that I can hardly wait for the next problem.”

One of the most misused Asian sayings involves the Chinese word “crisis”. Many motivational speakers still say the word is made up of the characters for danger and opportunity, implying that in Chinese culture, a crisis is not only regarded as a danger but also an opportunity. Even though this is not the case, the idea is a good one. Whether it is an environmental crisis or something closer to home, the seed of the solution most likely resides in the problem itself.

The rise of foreign Pharma companies continues at a steady pace and we are yet to hear the two nastiest words for a recruitment company, “hiring freeze”. It is full steam ahead for now. In fact, the past year has been our most successful. We have placed close to 50 managers and directors at some of the world are leading companies. Merck-Serono, Covance & Abbott all made key hires and have expanded their Japan operations.

The Japanese Pharma industry also continues to extend its global reach. Eisai, Takeda and Astellas have all had their fair share of challenges but they appear to have faced the music and are now investing heavily outside of Japan. Next year will bring on new challenges and the seeds of success lie just beneath the surface. They are in the soil of the problem and need tender loving care. They need to be watered with creativity and exposed to the sunshine of faith and belief in order to bloom.

But before we race forward with our next great idea, we need to look at the root of the problem. Our creative flames and sparks need to be balanced by the naysayers and skeptics. Carl Jacobi, a 19th-century mathematician, taught his students to “invert, always invert” when they encountered a particularly problem. This approach is great advice for business too.

Once we have developed new sales or marketing strategies, or a process of improvement, we should also compile a list, which explains why our new approaches are doomed to fail. What could possibly go wrong? What is the worst case scenario?

Bill Gates was known to get upset if everyone in his meetings always agreed. If two people agreed then one was not thinking, so the billionaire believed. One of my colleagues, Gerald Bullock, is great at shooting holes in my suggestions and I am very grateful.

Without the rigors of debate, our ideas, plans, visions and forecasts can be based on bias, prejudice and short sightedness. If the answer is yes, then continue evaluation and make relevant changes. But, if the answer is no, then get out of the situation as fast as possible. Go back to zero, before the situation started; go to the topmost square of the snakes and ladders game, and start from scratch.

This can be difficult if we have invested a great deal of resources on the project. However, we should not continue to throw good money after bad in the hope that time will turn things around.

In summary, there are no problems only challenges and the greatest opportunities often lay within these challenges. Let’s just remember to always, always invert.

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