Window of opportunity

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Critical windows in emergency medicine
Illustration of a short gamma-ray burst, a transient astronomical event caused by a collapsing star.[1]

A window of opportunity (also called a margin of opportunity or critical window) is a period of time during which some action can be taken that will achieve a desired outcome. Once this period is over, or the "window is closed", the specified outcome is no longer possible.[2]


Examples of windows of opportunity include:



The timing and length of a critical window may be well known and predictable (as in planetary transits) or more poorly understood (in the case of medical emergencies or climate change). In some cases, there may be multiple windows during which a goal can be achieved, as in the case of space launch windows.


In some time-critical situations, failure to act may entail a continuously increasing cost over time, or a continuously decreasing probability over time of achieving the desired outcome. This may be represented in real-time computing systems by time-utility functions.


In situations with very brief or unpredictable windows of opportunity, automation may be employed to take advantage of these windows, as in algorithmic trading[13] and time-domain astronomy.[14] Real-time computing systems can guarantee responses on the order of milliseconds or less.[15]

Artificial windows of opportunity[edit]

Critical windows for making purchases may be artificially imposed (or even falsely implied) as a marketing tactic to encourage action, in what is known as a "limited time offer".[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Illustration of a Short Gamma-Ray Burst Caused by a Collapsing Star". July 26, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  2. ^ "window of opportunity". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  3. ^ Robson, Ann L. "Critical/Sensitive Periods." Child Development. Ed. Neil J. Salkind. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2002. 101-103. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
  4. ^ American College of Surgeons (2008). Atls, Advanced Trauma Life Support Program for Doctors. Amer College of Surgeons. ISBN 978-1880696316.
  5. ^ "Window of Opportunity". Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Window of Opportunity". Investopedia. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  7. ^ Sull, Donald N.; Wang, Yong (June 6, 2005). "The Three Windows of Opportunity". Working Knowledge. Harvard Business School. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  8. ^ Heiney, Anna (February 23, 2012). Ryba, Jeanne (ed.). "Aiming for an Open Window". NASA Kennedy Space Center. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  9. ^ Wheeler, Robin (2009). "Apollo lunar landing launch window: The controlling factors and constraints". Apollo Flight Journal. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  10. ^ IPCC AR5 WGII (2014). "Climate change 2014, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-05-14.
  11. ^ "Time Domain Astronomy". Center for Astrophysics. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  12. ^ "Target of Opportunity Policies". European Southern Observatory. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  13. ^ Lin, Tom C. W. (2013). "The New Investor". UCLA Law Review. Temple University. 60 (678). SSRN 2227498.
  14. ^ "Automated operations". Mission Operations Center for Swift. Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  15. ^ Ben-Ari, M., "Principles of Concurrent and Distributed Programming", Prentice Hall, 1990. ISBN 0-13-711821-X. Ch16, Page 164
  16. ^ Morrison, Maureen (July 22, 2014). "How to Create a Successful Limited-Time Offer: A Do's (and One Don't) Guide for Marketers to Short-Lived Promos". AdvertisingAge. Crain Communications. Retrieved 22 April 2016.