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Issue Spotting as a Driver of Success in Business

It’s all about issue spotting.  But, not in the way you think.

You know how crucial issue spotting was to your success in law school and as a lawyer.  That same skill will be even more important as you transition to a business role.  We’ll explain.

In law school and in the practice of law issue spotting is all about identifying everything that can go wrong.  The defects in the manufacture of a product, the holes in a witness’s testimony, the mistakes in an offering memorandum etc.

In a business job it is naturally valuable to be trained to look for every potential problem.  From A-Z.

But what if you flip this on its head?  The converse is also true.  That is taking an idea or situation and trying to mine every possible opportunity.

Let’s take as an example, ex judicata.  This website. 

It was an idea we had to help JDs who wanted to transition to business jobs.  Then we tried to imagine all the many ways in which we could help.  Information, resources, 1-1 inspirational interviews, setting up a job board, creating courses, forums and it snowballed.  All starting with the notion of trying to identify all the valuable things we thought we could offer to our audience.

One of my colleagues, Nancy Stein, did a wonderful interview with Waleed Diab who is Director & Global Head of Recorded Music Development at YouTube. Waleed worked in a law firm and the law department at Google before moving to his present position.  He had this to say:

“As lawyers, we are trained to think about what’s going to go wrong. What really makes an impact is if you can find ways to say yes in an informed way. I’m not saying tell your clients or tell your business partners to just take a bunch of risks and do things that are ultimately not going to pan out because then you’ll have a very short-lived career. But if you can find smart ways to navigate the reasons why people would say no and come to a place where you can say yes to something, I think that is a super powerful skill.”

This is positive issue spotting.

When you come down Broadway on Manhattan’s West Side there is a large electronic billboard atop 59th street.  It flashes weather and time and messages. 

The other day the billboard read:  What’s the best that could happen?

As trite as this may sound on first blush, keep this in mind as you move into your new job in business.  Apply it to the ideas you generate and opportunities which are presented to you.’


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