The OPOrtunity Cost!


Though phonetically the OPO in the above caption does sound like the name of a mobile phone, do take that call at your own risk.


It’s easy to get curious about what OPO can be. There are various expansions in slang, business , medicine and everyday life.


OPO in business can translate to Optimum Positioning Opportunity, in the sense it becomes almost a competitive advantage.


OPO in the world of medicine could be Organ Procurement Organization.


OPO could also stand for Open Procurement Order.


And in everyday slang, OPO is simply Other People’s Opinions. And do people have them????


The above out of the way, let’s get down to what I am driving at.


In our case, the pecking order of OPO reads somewhat like this: Optimism to begin with, bring on the pessimism in the middle to moderate and ascertain and go back to optimism late in the piece.


Often times we ourselves get in the way of getting something started. That is where optimism comes in, as without that, the journey to something new, something better and the world of multiple possibilities wouldn’t come about. Believing in what you are about to do does not guarantee success, but a lack of belief can surely prevent it.


Once we hit the road, open the bag of pessimism, that bag which contains questions. Play devil’s advocate. Dig holes. Use the fine tooth comb. Evaluate. Is it misplaced enthusiasm? Raise the bar. Hold yourself accountable. Let the jury be out(standing)!


The above accomplished, call your friend back. Suggest you keep it on speed dial. Optimism. Look at progress not just outcomes. And progress requires the courage to move ahead despite the inevitable obstacles and speed breakers. To quote Ryan Holiday‘s book title ” The Obstacle Is The Way “. Perfection is an illusion. Showing up and shipping out is not. Iterations can happen. Enhancements and making things better will follow.


Optimism is a tool that, if used wisely, it brings enthusiasm, inspiration and hope to projects that benefit from them.


And pessimism is a tool as well–it can help you with budgeting, scheduling and other projects. If it works for you, that’s great.


It’s not that optimism solves all of life’s problems; it is just that it can sometimes make the difference between coping and collapsing. Optimism is a force multiplier.


Pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists “- Thomas Friedman.



Questioning the questioning !

It is said that knowledge means to know the right answer but intelligence means asking the right question.


The truth is we are born with a natural desire to question everything and be curious, but along the path of growing up many of us lose that desire.


Know how to ask. There is nothing more difficult for some people, nor for others easier“- Baltasar Gracian


Most of us would have experienced this at school or college. Your teacher or professor midway through the class asks ” Does anyone have a question? “. Nine times out of ten, no hand would go up. The professor has reconciled to the fact that she is doing an excellent job of explaining the material and secretly patting herself on the back.


Looking at our performance in the exams, nothing could be further from the truth which is most of us did not understand what was taught.


A better way for the professor to reframe the question would have been ” Given how complex the topic is, I am sure you would have plenty of questions. This is a great time to ask them “.


This nudge would go a long way. More hands would go up and more questions will get asked.


Does anyone have a question? ” was not the smartest of questions in any case. Most of us would pride on our ‘intellectual ability‘ and the last thing we would like to do is come across as dumb in a class full of peers by asking what may potentially be a stupid question.

We have perfected the art of asking stupid questions even outside the classroom. Take your HR Managers’ appraisal session and the first question you get asked is ” Everything going well? “, which leaves most people with no room to segue into what ideally should be an honest feedback. A better version that will elicit an honest response( the very purpose of an appraisal) would be ” What are the challenges you are facing at work ? ” and you open the floodgates for relevant feedback.


When we reframe a question—when we change our method of questioning—we also change the outcome.


Werner Heisenberg, the brains behind the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, had it right: “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”


In an always on, expert run, industrialised economy, the pressure | expectation is to be the person who is sure, the one with all the answers. Do you think someone who has all the questions is more valuable? 


I encourage you to take a look at this throwback article from BrandKnew 



A question of questions!

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”: Voltaire 

Question is defined as a sentence or phrase used to find out information, insight or intelligence.

We may have all experienced this. You are checking out of a hotel room after a few days’ stay. The lady at the checkout counter politely asks you ‘ How was your stay? ‘ And this question seems not to have changed over the years across time zones and continents. And in most cases, a polite yet non committal answer evolves  ‘ It was good ‘ (even though the stay may not have been).
What if (question?) we are asked ‘ What could we have done to improve your stay with us ? ‘ . The energy and the dynamic changes completely. Rather than go on auto pilot mode and offer the default response, you are buoyed by the keenness of the hotel staff to improve the guest experience and you end up offering honest feedback. The answer may not give them exactly what they want to hear. But it will give what’s valuable for them to learn.
As the old proverb goes ‘ Better to ask a question than to remain ignorant ‘.
What if Obvious Questions collide with Contrarian Answers? It’s a discussion worth having. When smart, committed people disagree about the answer to a question, it’s a question worth pursuing.
Progress or outcomes? There is no toss up- its got to be progress. Ditto with questions.
HR reviews could have better progress and responses if employees are asked ‘ What challenges are you facing now ? ‘, as that question presumes that challenges are the norm, not the exception. Rather than ask ‘ Are you facing any challenges?’ , when most will say no. They might fear that their admission will be seen as a weakness.
Good insights, contrary to popular wisdom, don’t come from a smart answer. They come from a smart question.
” We awaken by asking the right questions. We awaken when we see knowledge being spread that goes against our own personal experiences. We awaken by seeking answers in corners that are not popular. We awaken when we see popular opinion being wrong but accepted as being right, and what is right being pushed as wrong “- Suzy Kassem