What is Human Potential?
Is it fixed and measurable? Have our ideas about human potential changed in the last one hundred years? In a scholarly article published in Sage Journals, David Yun Dai explores these questions.
Dai points out that the potential of a person had been seen historically as fixed and primarily inherited. Current studies, however, broaden the understanding of human potential; not as fixed but as adjustable and gradual, depending on multiple factors.
He concludes after reviewing multiple studies, that the traditional view is a narrowed-down, reduction of what really constitutes human potential. This leads to problematic practices as well as ethical, social, and societal consequences. For example, this leads to IQ-based bifurcation of the gifted and nongifted.
Basis of Human Potential
Instead, we need to embrace a broader psychosocial basis of human potential. As a part of this, it’s important to recognize the multifaceted, developmentally complex nature of how gifts and talents develop. Most urgently, for educators, psychological practitioners, and coaches, a conception of human potential should be empowering rather than limiting; for that matter, inclusive rather than exclusive.
The implications of David Yun Dai’s work is truly amazing. Consider how you’ve been taught to think about yourself. Do you see yourself as a black box filled with all kinds of undiscovered interests and talents? Do you see yourself as a being of fixed inherited abilities that you try to discover and exploit? And perhaps even more important is the way you look at others. Do you see unlimited potential in others? Do you tend to put people in fixed categories based on education, class, and other factors?
This broader and more positive view of human potential has revolutionary implications for our educational system. It not only affects the educational system, but also the workplace. Leaders and employees should look at each other in new ways. Choosing leaders and teams should be based on the potential to acquire and groom talent from within. If both employees and leaders understand that talent can be developed throughout the workplace experience, the company can truly grow.
Guidance for Leaders
An article published on June 16, 2015 for InsideHR includes some guidance from Kathy Gately for leaders trying to apply the contemporary view of human potential and talent.
She suggests that companies can indeed grow their own talent. She encourages companies to build a strong learning culture beginning with the example from leaders.
Gately encourages leaders to create a new kind of environment. A place where people feel motivated to seek guidance and feedback and learn from one another.
She also suggests that leaders exercise patience, but expect people to take ownership by learning from their experiences. Focus on the importance of the team with everyone committed to the team’s success. Also, highlight and reward the team’s willingness to share their knowledge with their team members.
Here are her suggestions for leaders wanting to energize their team using Human Potential concepts:
- Align people with their passions
- Create a compelling vision
- Inspire ambition
- Build great relationships
- Empower your team
If you are exploring your own potential we would love to share the process of discovery and guide you to ignite your own potential for career happiness and success. Reach out and take advantage of our complimentary 25-minute phone sessions.