The other side of the opportunity

Find out more about the other side of opportunity told through a metaphor.

Juan Forero Follow

Reading time: 4 min

A dynamic opportunity that barely gives us time to react, just like the flowering of the Lady of the Night.

Now there is another side to the opportunities that the garden shows us. Perhaps we have heard someone say that ‘God’s timing is perfect’ … and the guanabana tree or Catuche as it is called here in Venezuela takes that very seriously.

The soursop

The guanábana is a fruit that can grow very large, and its white, sweet and sour pulp is very much appreciated. The problem with it is that it always stays green and if you take it down from the tree too early, it gets ‘overripe’ and in most cases does not ripen.

It is this kind of situation that reminds us of Kairos, which in a way represents the ‘right time’ to do things. It is no longer the flower that lasts only one night, but it is the fruit that you have to harvest at the right time… neither before – because it would not ripen – nor after – because the birds would eat it or it would be destroyed when it falls to the ground.

The time

The Greeks had two different words for time. Chronos was ‘linear’ time, that which can be measured with a clock, while Kairos represents ‘qualitative’ time or the ‘right’ moment. Compared to the Goddess Occasion – who represents the opportunity that comes suddenly and goes quickly – Kairos is the conjunction of the right place and time. She was even said to have more power than Zeus himself, implying the importance of being aligned with him.

There are many examples of this kind of thing in everyday life. Projects that we can identify and offer ‘ahead of time’ and that start to take on meaning and value much later when the circumstances around us become conducive. So developing something ahead of time can be just as bad as developing it afterwards. It may be like the soursop, which, even if it looks big and beautiful, will remain hard and turn brown so that it will not be used if we put it down before it is ready.

I remember talking about eSIM – the evolution of our familiar Chip that gives life to GSM phones – back in 2018. At the time it was just getting started and was dismissed when compared to the priorities of the moment. However, a change in the industry made it very relevant at the end of 2022, four years later. The project that no one had looked at became the effort that aligned much of the company.

The ‘right time’ for something then is more like ‘the right time and space’. Years ago in Venezuela there was a wheat flour crisis and bread became scarce. At that time I happened to discover a bread factory to which I had access, and I – who said I was no good for sales – decided to make an experiment by buying a few pieces and selling them to my colleagues. The experiment was a success and taught me many things, such as the one we are developing today, which is the value of Kairos, that of using the right moment to our advantage.

Now, in the case of the soursop, one of the main problems is to be able to recognise when it is the moment from which we can take advantage of it. Its colour change is very subtle and we cannot be guided by size either. Isn’t this similar to what happens in VICA environments? When the environment behaves in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous way, interpreting the right moment becomes much more complicated. One way will always be trial and error, losing a few guanábanas along the way.

How to improve?

Well, it is important to develop new indicators that allow us to identify the opportunity in a better way. Some people have told me that they ‘smell’ when the guanábanas are ready, or that their ‘thorns’ fall off. In a difficult environment there may be new indicators to guide us that we are not seeing at the moment. In addition, there will also be our intuition… that little inner voice that could guide us on the right path. There is a term ‘Educated Guess’ which is something like ‘informed guessing’ that is often crucial when the situation becomes difficult.

Conclusions

In summary, we have opportunities that are difficult to identify, that have very narrow windows of opportunity and that require us to develop new indicators, experiment and give space to our intuition.

I for one will continue to test strategies to take advantage of the soursop trees.


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