Missing Opportunities? Build Buffer

Buffer is mission critical for leaders looking to innovate and pivot in response to challenges and opportunities unearthed by the seismic shifts that are shaking the foundations of our economy and society today.

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You’ve heard the stories: People bemoaning the big opportunities they missed. Iconic examples: Ross Perot recounts how he blew his chance to buy up Microsoft in 1979 when it was worth $2 million and Bill Gates was just 23 years old. Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, missed his opportunity to own a third of the newly formed Apple Computer when Steve Jobs approached him for a $50,000 investment.

Sometimes these misses are the result of poor judgment, but often they’re caused by a lack of buffer: insufficient brainspace, time, energy or money to give the opportunity a fair shake.

Buffer. Freeboard. Margin. Space. They mean business. 3M has generated oceans of revenue from innovations that emerged from buffer – their famous 15% rule, which enables engineers and scientists to spend that portion of their time in pursuit of projects, opportunities and innovations of their own choice.

Buffer is mission critical for leaders looking to innovate and pivot in response to challenges and opportunities unearthed by the seismic shifts that are shaking the foundations of our economy and society today.



How much buffer do you have in your life?

Without buffer, you’re missing:

  • the peripheral vision to notice opportunities (science says daydreaming amps up creative noticing)

  • the curiosity to explore opportunities

  • the energy and time to prototype opportunities

  • the muscle to implement opportunities


Plan for and schedule buffer – so you can access opportunities

There are two kinds of time and managing them intelligently allows you to take advantage of opportunities. The kind of time we all know and love/hate is called chronos, which is chronological, sequential, clock time. The kind of time we know less about is kairos, which is a moment of serendipitous chance, an opportune time for action or a fortuitous season of windfall.

Let’s be honest, all minutes do not hold equal potential – some are rich with possibility, others are not. My wife and I have four children, and when we started parenting them 38 years ago, I was always on keen alert for special moments, magical moments that offered disproportionate opportunity. One such moment happened when my daughter Katelyn said, “You travel all over the world. When are you going to take me on a trip?” I didn’t have to be asked twice. Soon after, we were traveling and making memories in China together. If you’d asked me 38 years ago how many of those moments I would have with each of my children I would have said, “Hundreds!”

But as I look back, I figure I’ve had about 11.


Grow your capacity

To maximize opportunities, there are two key things you can do:

  1. Build Buffer – stop thinking buffer time will appear at the moment an opportunity presents itself. It may not. Schedule buffer into your calendar. Every day, every week and every month should have a time slot called opportunity.

  2. Notice Opportunity – cultivate your awareness of serendipity, synchronicity, collaborative collisions and moments of disproportionate possibility. As you go through your day, expect opportunities. Anticipate them. Attune yourself to them. Notice the moments when time starts to stand still. Notice when the energy shifts in the room. Notice coincidences that signal things lining up.

Juice has helped leaders across North America develop the mindset, skill set and tools for success. Explore our leadership training solutions, including custom programs to focus on the priorities that matter most to you.