Opportunity Creation


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

A friend of mine and his wife were getting divorced. They quarreled about who should get the house. Both hired expensive lawyers and were close to spending more than the value of the house. I wished to help them and suggested what I considered a fair and simple way to solve the dispute. The result was that each thought I was taking the other’s side, and neither of them spoke with me anymore.

Around the same time, in 1987, I met a Soviet visitor by chance. I saw two people taking pictures of each other on the campus of Princeton University and offered to take a picture of both of them. It turned out that they were here to take part in the International Debating championship. I casually introduced them to a Visiting Fellow from South Korea, at a time before the two countries had established diplomatic relations.

It was as if an electric spark passed between them. They immediately began to make plans for academic exchanges between Seoul National and Moscow State Universities, for mutual visits by delegations of business people, and more.

It dawned on me that it is much easier, and often more fruitful, to bring people in contact who are eager to work together for mutual benefit than to try to separate parties in a conflict. One could call that type of initiative “opportunity creation.”


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. 1986-88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University. He has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Aug 2017.

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