Monday, February 22, 2010

Problems and Opportunities

There's no such thing as problems, only opportunities

There may be people and situations for which this is true: tow-truck operators and plumbers come to mind. But for the rest of us, it's critically important to tell the difference — in fact, that is the difference: criticality. Opportunities are optional, problems aren't.

I'm not sure where the “no problems” slogan came from, but I suspect a half-asleep MBA student in ECON 101. In economics, there truly are no problems, nor opportunities either, only choices. But every choice has an “opportunity cost,” which, confusingly, is the net profit from the best alternative. If you (like many business students) don't think of the possibility that net profit can be negative, it's an easy step from cost to slogan.

Houston, we have an opportunity

In the real world, however, net profit can be negative. And when you're a quarter million miles from earth, with limited oxygen and electricity, the opportunity cost of the wrong choice is death. In the computer industry, we're not likely to face such drastic costs; but that doesn't mean we don't have problems.

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