Identifying the tools and skills to reach our full potential and thrive in a world of accelerating change
Any quest for full potential demands first to define what this potential entails. During our evolution, the best performance we could hope for was meant simply surviving as a species. With the “the rise of man over nature” our focus turned to other people, to conquering lands and winning wars. The advent of capitalism brought yet another shift where success was equated to profit and the accumulation of wealth. As our influence and ecological footprint grew, we began assessing social and environmental metrics as well, and today, after a few generations diligently working for commercial success, many of us now appraise the need for purpose and fulfillment in our lives. But throughout this process, such performance included the capacity to maximize our own individual potential, and that of other humans beings in close physical proximity.
The maturity of exponential technologies ads another dimension to this progression. Because we have create such a hyperconnected ecosystem and such powerful tools, reaching our full potential will increasingly entail not only maximizing our own capacities and that of people around us, but our ability to entice and direct these external resources in alignment with our greater purpose. Today, successful organizations, governments and individuals are increasingly leveraging on external communities, consumers, platforms, automation and new technologies to take their “personal potential” to a whole new level.
Thriving in such an ecosystem requires a very different mindset and skill sets than what has been needed so sar. Fundamentally it seems to demands a distinct form of self-reflection required to operate in an environment of automation, hyperconnection and exponential change. One which allows us to identify which patterns we wish to enhance and empower with automation (and which we’d like to release), to identify the biases that prevent us from readjusting our value propositions to the changing ecosystem, and to increase our capacities for empathy, for seeing ourselves from an outside perspective, and gaining valuable insights into partner and consumer of follower pain-points.
That’s easier said than done. Humans operate in great part under automated response patterns that function out of our sphere of attention yet have – perhaps for this very reason – massive influence over how we think, behave and collaborate (and the respective results). Such automated responce has been an essential evolutionary trait for dealing with an environment of complex stimulus, but these same patterns can make us extremely vulnerable when put in situations that require a different response than the one we have been conditioned to give. And the more the context around us changes, the more we will run into situations where our programmed responses will not work. As put by C. Otto Scharmer, chair of the MIT IDEAS program for cross-innovation in his book Theory U, “a behavior that at first may be perfectly functional in a specific context quickly develops a life of its own and turns into a habit… This creates increasingly dysfunctional behaviors that keep being reproduced and downloaded…. like a virus“.
In order to develop the fluidity and dynamism required to keep up with our ever changing environment, and to successfully direct and guide the powerful forces we are releasing, it is imperative we learn how to identify these biases and behavioral patterns and to discern if there are refraining us from reaching important new breakthroughs in the expansion our potential as individuals and collective organizations; that we understand their influence, identify their triggers, and develop an ability to override these patterns when they no longer serve us;
It worth noting that this is not a question of removing behavioral patterns – indeed as our outside stimuli continues to increase in complexity and speed, we will need automated responses more than ever – but of gaining control over which of these response to strengthen and elicit, and which to replace. It is also a question of releasing old habits in order to permit new patterns – more supportive to our desired future – to gain strength. “Moving towards future possibilities” as Scharmer says “requires us to become aware of — and abandon — the dominant mode of downloading [or habits] that causes us to continually reproduce the patterns of the past”.
The post on this category will thus shed light on two complementary themes. On the one hand, topics that enhance our capacity for self reflection and identification of conditioning with subjects such as cognitive biases, fixed action patterns, organizational blind spots, the internal dialogue, memetics and game theory, amongst others. On the other, we will study the techniques, concepts and tools for enhancing and expanding our fluidity and ultimate performance, such as flow states, purpose-driven learning, design thinking, holacracy, OKRs, and Theory U.
To be sure, such techniques will be key in avoiding many potential pitfalls we now face (in politics, health, ecology, stress, unhappiness, etc.) and help in paving the way to exciting new future possibilities.
What are these future possibilities waiting to be uncovered? Our next category will explore some of the most promising development today that seem to shed new light on the full spectrum of human potential, in understanding ourselves, our surroundings and our role and purpose in this ecosystem.
Many of these, it should be added, can only flourish under an entirely new paradigm. Much like Max Planck’s well known quote that “science advances one funeral at a time”, sometime it is only by releasing old beliefs and habits that we make space for the new. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that these developments are often ignored or even attacked by present incumbents, institutions, and a public attached to the current state of affairs; not always as a conscious
Any fair analyses of these initiatives will thus require a keen self-reflection that allows us to appraise these ideas from outside the standing paradigms, many of which have been so deeply rooted as to become “conventional wisdom”. I’ll will try to provide such reflection and contextualization when necessary.