Freelance Writing Portfolio This Could by Scott Burnham

How Two Words Can Create Opportunities

For all its horrors, the Coronavirus pandemic revealed that a deep well of resourcefulness exists in all of us. When shortcomings were revealed across the social and medical spectrum, many were able to find solutions to urgent needs by using what they already had in new ways.

Hospital parking garages were transformed into clinical treatment facilities. Distilleries retooled their operations to make hand sanitizer. German coffee filter maker Melitta repurposed their existing materials and manufacturing processes to make face masks.

No particular magic lies behind such transformations. Each was the product of simply looking at an existing asset from a perspective of “This could…” instead of “This is.” And as we move into a post-pandemic recovery, looking at the world with “This could…” in mind is going to be more critical than ever—both in the near-future recovery, and the long-term future of our economy and ecology.

Additional abilities are embedded in almost every object, material, structure, and system. The additional abilities are resources that remain dormant when we limit our perspective to “This is X, and its purpose is to do Y.”

If the mental equation is widened to consider, “This is X and its purpose is to do Y, but this could also do something else,” an array of new resources and solutions would emerge from what is already there.

When a parking garage is seen with a fixed mindset of “This is,” it is simply a place to put cars. But when it is considered with a perspective of “This could…” it is freed from its trappings of prescribed form and function and becomes a resource to meet a need. The same for distillery operations, coffee filter manufacturing, and countless other assets and operations limited by “This is” thinking. “This could…” thinking is the first step in the process of unlocking additional abilities from any resource.

The words “This could…” contain a unique energy. Imagine having a conversation with someone about an important issue or business decision. In the middle of the conversation, they pause and say, “This could…” then their phone rings and they take the call while walking out of the room.

The anticipation of what was going to follow those words would be palpable.

“This Could…” activates the mind and builds momentum for new ideas, new options, new directions. It creates an expectation that must be delivered upon. “This is” sits at the other end of the linguistic spectrum—it is an absolute statement of certainty and fixed identity. No energy builds. No point of departure is expected. Whatever follows is… well, it just is.

Looking at the world with a fixed “This is” mentality leads to, as Albert Einstein said, attempting “solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Limited thinking created a path to limited resources and leaves us little to work with going forward. Seeing everything only in its current state creates a linear, dead-end equation for the future of what we have:

“This Is” x Available Resources = Available Resources

Replacing the limitations of “This is” with the opportunities “This could…” unleashes, changes the equation:

“This Could…” x Available Resources = Additional Resources

Swapping “Is” for “Could” is just a one-word exchange that unlocks potential. It transforms the capability of existing assets from dormant objects to dynamic containers of possibility.