The Alchemy of Potential
The word “Potential” is probably one of the most widely used terms I have encountered. throughout my life (personally and professionally).
I remember as early as 2nd grade, my uncle (who is was also a PE teacher at my elementary school), advising me that I must “live up to my potential”. I recall feeling a bit puzzled by the very concept. It sounded like a “promise” by a well trusted friend or a prophecy by a gypsy looking into a magic ball to foretell the future. I liked it, I feared it, and I certainly took it very seriously. As I went through life I became aware of other uses of this mystical word; use cases implying “consolatory and polite deferment of judgement”; “well, he is not very good at this, but has the potential to learn and improve”.
I recall during my first physics class in school, my teacher talking about “Potential Energy” as this tremendous reservoir of energy where all physical objects automagically posses at each and every instance. At first it sounded very salient and passive, but soon enough I discovered that it is absolutely omni and powerful. I learnt that potential energy is as fundamental and crucial to our laws of nature as kinetic energy (movement); actually even more important.
On the more human side of the subject, I find “potential” something even more complex; on one hand “potential” as a “predisposition for success” is a relevant factor to consider while weighting options. Nevertheless, such prejudgment misses the bigger opportunity of “creating potential” where it is missing. It’s like choosing to grow crop in already fertile ground, instead of rehabilitating a land and cultivating it for “potential”.
Every time we Look for potential, we precludes tremendous set of “other possibilities”, we ignore the opportunity for creating a more potent future of “potentials”.
Such realization struck me as crucial and detrimental while attempting to recruit and hire talent for my new team. After initially approaching the task at hand with my “classical mechanics” hat on, I soon realized that I was like everyone else competing for the same “pool of talent”. I then decided to look beyond “potential” and consider looking for how to create potential within the existing workforce.