The Untapped Potential for Human Potential
Do you believe that in every individual and organization there is a vast reserve of untapped potential: capacity for better performance, more effectiveness or higher fulfillment? Do you believe that we need to shift current leadership practices to foster creativity, strategic thinking, innovation and information sharing? Do you believe that we are close to the “tipping point” of K-12 education reform to improve the effectiveness of teaching professionals?
The Economist compiled an all-star line up for the Ideas Economy: Human Potential event– a day of thought provoking discussions, videos, songs and presentations to explore fundamental issues affecting the future of jobs and the impact of disruptive innovation and technology in reshaping the world of work. It’s too much to cover in one post, so I’ve outlined below some of the key points, and I plan to share highlights from other speakers in future posts.
Hal Gregersen, co-author, “The Innovator’s DNA” and Insead University Professor and Michael Mandelbaum, Christian A. Herter Professor and Director of the American Foreign Policy Program, The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies discussed migration as a way of diversifying our workforce- bringing ideas, connections and a fresh perspective. In the US the issue of illegal immigration looms large, yet we know that highly skilled immigrants create more jobs. The question is how can the US legally admit and retain highly skilled talent? Another idea Gregersen purported is that we “Get new ideas by talking with others- never eat lunch alone! Eat with someone who doesn’t think, look or act like you!” Wow- could implementing a lunch roulette program infuse innovation into your organization? Hit the EASY button!
Work Innovation Starts NOW
Philanthropist Eli Broad, founder, The Broad Foundation and author of “The Art of Being Unreasonable- Lessons in Unconventional Thinking,” spoke as a long-term optimist on the need to focus on education reform. “Better education leads to a stronger competitive workforce. Charter schools are paving the way for education reform. We need blended learning – the best of technology and teachers to succeed; we are close to the tipping point in K-12 education reform.” He went on to say that, “supporting the arts is great for the economy- it promotes cultural tourism and helps people to become more creative.” They discussed America as a “great meritocracy- if you’re wiling to work hard and have great ideas you can be successful. “ There are three million unfilled positions in US, yet there’s over eight million looking for work. How do we up-skill our existing workforce? How do we innovate at work? How do we fix the root of the problem and provide training and education to produce a best-in-class skilled workforce? Broad also discussed the toll of success – admitting that he worked 24/7 in the early years. He went on to state, “If I had the chance to do it over again, I’d spend more time with my boys as they were growing up.“
A revolving panel chatted about the impact of technological disruption on the way that companies reach and interact with customers. Alexis Maybank, founder and chief strategist of Gilt Groupe created a unique experience, with 5 million customers pouring into their online storefront at the same moment; the majority of their revenue is gained in 90 minutes a day, then they shrink back to small store front. #innovation! The beauty is that this model could not exist off-line! With 30% of their business on mobile devices, Gilt is rethinking the web site visuals to be delivered in multiple formats. In addition, they are proactively monitoring and responding to the voice of the customer on social networks, building a compelling online experience for consumers.
Shaifali Puri, executive director, Scientists without Borders, connects scientists through a free web-based platform to generate, share, and advance innovative science and technology- based solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
Their approach is disruptive! Simply, concretely state a problem, seek out those who have thought of the problem (and those who have never thought about it), set a deadline- and let go! Recently, they put out a challenge to reduce infant mortality by fortifying staple foods with folic acid at the home- 60 solutions came from 22 countries, within 30 days. The power to reach untapped sources is huge!
Guy Halfteck, founder and chief executive, Knack.it, produces software that reveals professional skills and aptitude through game play. Knacks can reveal personal insights that enlighten, inspire and motivate. What particular combination of traits drives performance? What if you could discover the next Steve Jobs- within your own organization? Gamification can unlock hidden talents within your organization, allowing you to nurture creativity and opening access to opportunities.
Afternoon sessions were designed to tap the creativity, love and playfulness of the human spirit. Motivational speaker L. Vaughn Spencer rapped about management and the audience roared! Grace McLean, discussed her unique approach to story telling, and belted out songs that delighted the crowd!
Most of us go through life never understanding our true potential. Sometimes we have to hear stories of people who have the courage to fearlessly pursue an idea and make extraordinary things happen to make us wake up to see our own potential, the potential of those around us and the potential of organizations.
Ideas Economy: Pushing Work and Life Forward
We’re at a moment of dramatic transformation in the workplace, a paradigm shift in the way we connect, problem solve, innovate and add value. Do you understand your organization’s potential for great performance, profit and satisfaction? Are you passionate about the work that you’re doing? How much value are you generating? The next move is yours… I look forward to your comments.
The Economist Ideas Economy: Human Potential event was successful due to the thought-provoking debate and diverse perspectives. Watch for video clips coming soon on their web site.