Achieving Full Potential

I’ve frequently wondered what it would take to get organizations and the talented people in those organizations to achieve their full potential. As a consultant my observation would be that most people and organizations are performing well below that "full potential" level. Is getting close to full potential possible?

I was inspired by an article in Fast Company not too long ago about Google. Apparently "Google is different". There seems to be a spirit there that is not all that common. Google folks think that the work they are doing is really important; world changing stuff! And it sounds like it starts with the hiring process when this question is asked, "If you could change the world using Google’s resources, what would you build?" Wow! How many of us are challenging our people to think that big?

The article goes on to state that the really special thing about Google is that its been able to instill a sense of "creative fearlessness" – Wow again! In a world that seems to be starving for innovation, that would be a great culture to have in more organizations.

The article talks about the freedom and resources Google entrusts to its people and how that results in an unique sense of both possibility and obligation — resulting in people asking, "Are we taking advantage of what we’ve got here? Are we doing enough? Are we doing everything we can?" The article ends with the wonderful insight that these are "…thrilling questions, ones we all should ask more often."

I wonder if asking and answering those questions might just nudge us all a bit closer to achieving our full potential.

Jim Bolt * Chairman, Executive Development Associates * *

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  • Jim Bolt

    Jay, thanks for your comments and insights. That'a a great phrase, "Imanginative Gridlock", and it does seem that these kinds of question might free us from that kind of gridlock. I completely agree that this a leadership issue. And leadership at all levels; as you point out it's personalin in terms of how we challeng ourselves, as well as the way we think of leadership more traditionally in an organizational setting whether it be our religious, political, educational, social or corporate instititons. Jim

  • Jay Tatum

    In response to your inquiry, I think the condition is one of Imaginative Gridlock, a phrase I learned from Rabbi Ed Friedman. I think the condition, though, isn't limited to just the organizations as entities, but as individuals in those organizations as well. One of the interesting points your post raises is the role of leadership, as if it, too, is limited to the Senior Leadership of an organization. In reaching my full potential I may have to move outside the organization to which I am often tethered.
    As an ordained cleric there are those who want to put me in a God-box, so to speak, and limit my functioning to the traditional religious realm of my profession. If we were to use your line of reasoning about Goggle embracing a kind of "creative fearlessness" and apply it to the power of People of God, can you imagine what could be accomplished? Can you imagine what people of faith could get done when we allow ourselves the same kinds of freedom those folks at Goggle do? But why limit this to just people of faith or the people of God? I think it goes back to that point you raise about the questions and answers.
    I am often challenged to step outside the traditional religious realm of my profession to partner with folks who do not share my faith, but a common concern for the well being of others. Whether it is feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, or responding to local disasters, reaching my full potential is limited on by my imagination and I have found that some of the most unlikely candidates for support have been the most generous simply because I asked for their help and support.
    I appreciate your post and the questions you raise for me to consider. Can you imagine challenging youself with the question, "How will I change the world today?" instead of "what am I doing here?" Your assessment is correct that asking and answering those questions might just nudge us all a bit closer to achieving our full potential. Thanks.