There was once an old man who lived on a small farm with his only son. They only possessed one horse with which they could till the fields. One day, the horse ran away. The people of the village exclaimed, “Oh lord, what a tragedy!” The old man, however, replied with a calm voice, “Who knows what it’s good for?” One week later, the horse returned and with it arrived an entire herd of magnificent wild horses. Once again, the people of the village came and said, “What a blessing!” But the old man once again replied, “Who knows what this is good for.” The next week, the son set about taming one of the wild horses. He was thrown off and broke his leg. The people of the village came to him and said, “What a terrible tragedy!” To which the old man once more replied, “Who knows what it’s good for.” In the course of the next few days, a war broke out. All the village’s young men were drafted, sent to the front and many of them died. Only the old man’s son, having broken his leg, was allowed to stay home.

Whether something turns out to be a curse or a blessing is often a matter of perspective. In some organizations there is no lack of recognition of problems. Quite to the contrary, the problems are perceived as so overwhelming that the actors are trapped in a ‘problem trance’ that prevents them from changing anything. To free the organization from this paralysis and release energy for change, it is recommended to shift the focus. Like a camera, you can zoom in to see more clearly, or to recognize the good in it, or use the wide angle setting to sharpen your view of the whole picture in order to relativize a problem to a certain extent.


  1. Notice how your organization responds to changes to its environment. Are these changes perceived as disruptions or as opportunities? This gives you valuable information about where blocked energy can be found and where you as a manager have to come in to release energy for the change.
  2. Use a specific problem to discuss the following questions during the next management meeting. How large is the problem from a bird’s-eye view? What does this perspective change? What good can be found in our current (difficult) situation? What opportunities are contained therein? What if nothing changes?
  3. Regularly conduct a SWOT analysis for your organization: