|Training for Elected Leadership - The Councillor as Decision-maker (HABITAT, 1994, 22 p.)|
|Part I. Essay on the councillor as decision-maker|
Identifying, or finding, the problem to be addressed is not always easy. This is the first problem with the rational approach to decision-making. What might seem like a problem to you, as a councillor, may not seem like a problem to your constituents, or even your fellow councillors. Problem finding, particularly as a local elected councillor, should be linked closely with opportunity finding. Problem-solving suggests something is wrong that needs to be fixed. Finding opportunities and taking advantage of them is much more positive. While both have a role in your decision making responsibilities, tapping opportunities may be more stimulating and even more productive in the long run. Here are some other distinctions between these two generators of decision-making events.
Problems are often oriented toward maintenance (fix it, solve it, get on with it). By contrast, opportunities are focused on development. Opportunities are often problematic. They always involve some risk and uncertainty. Is it feasible? Will it work? If it works, will there be any benefits? Problems, on the other hand, may become risky only if they aren't solved.
Opportunities live in the future and the risks must be calculated against a future that is not always predictable. Problems have a historical past that can usually be examined. The results of solving a problem, or not solving it, are often more predictable.
When we are exploring opportunities, the question most often asked is, What if" When we are problem-solving, the question is, "Why?"
With problems you seek solutions; with opportunities, the search is for maker benefits.
As a councillor, you can, more often than not, ignore opportunities. It's much harder to turn your back on problems.
Opportunities come but do not linger.