The 6 Factors of Your Ultimate Potential — Humanity’s Missing Yard Stick (UHD Part 4)

My first job after chemical engineering school was the what became a 20-year addiction to studying why companies fail and individuals struggle. I have mentioned my early career mentors the “Two Johns” in previous articles. They helped me see that my brain’s hardware was different than my company’s leadership (or rather a managership.) I had a very personal dilemma. My company at the time was the first of what became a domino-effect of mega-mergers in the plastics and chemicals industry. A notable merger that happened very soon after ours was that of Exxon and Mobil. This was historic because they were both companies formed after John D. Rockefeller’s oil dynasty Standard Oil Company was broken up by the Federal government in 1911 under the Sherman Antitrust Act.

So, here I was, part of a mega-merger trend that was, as it seemed to me, a result of the reality of low-cost oil and gas in the Middle East. The amount of investment and infrastructure build was immense and the ability to export to the United States had become a reality. As the cool kids would say, “the threat was real yo’.” At the same time, the biggest end uses for plastics and chemicals were shifting the demand from North America and Western Europe to Asia-Pacific (manufacturing in general.) Both demand and supply dynamics were at play. So yeah, it was real and the result was a finding a dance partner before it was too late.

My company’s newfound focus was on a better return on investment of R&D and technical services. HR wanted to realize the long-term value of mixing the talent of what actually became the merging of three separate companies. The business leaders were put in charge of doing a better job of targeting the right markets to marshal resources. The problem was the leadership was, by definition, anti-visionary. Meaning, they had to interpolate opportunities which, in turn, means any new opportunities had to “make sense to them.”

At the same time, I was building a name for myself because I was able to see (extrapolative) opportunities to deliver what arguably aligned with the goals the organization had clearly articulated. However, management could not see what I and many others alongside me could see. As we were making sense out of things (extrapolating) it just wasn’t making sense to them (interpolating.) In other words, the opportunities we were bringing them were not tangible enough.

Let’s use a fictitious example to illustrate. Let’s say it is the declining glass industry and you are the CEO of one of the remaining big players. You hire consultants to help get the company pointed in a better direction. Let’s say they come back with “see-through drinking glasses” as the untapped new business opportunity. The problem is no one else is doing this in the market. Therefore, you might likely respond with,

NO ONE is walking around with see-through drinking glasses! They are heavy, they can break and the cost is way higher than current methods to produce drinking glasses. Plus, no one is asking for such a product.”

You then decide to shelve it since, well, you paid for it. But then what happens when people start walking around with see-through drinking glasses?


You would pull the trigger on the company’s resources faster than Clint Eastwood in the Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Because it has now become interpolatable and tangible.

Let me remind you that innovation is a hindsight term. To be an innovation a quorum of relevant people must agree. What was it as an idea? Probably a lot like those ridiculous see-through drinking glasses.

Now, back to my story

I continued to impress enough people, mostly the ones I naturally synapsed with. But that was not everyone in management. Some were actually negative synapses who exhibited a wide range of unanticipated actions to delay, stop, or derail any serious consideration of anyone’s ideas that went against or would interrupt their own agendas. In hindsight, I am quite positive there was a considerable amount of ‘groupthink’ occurring because of the intimidating egos of certain personalities amongst the senior team. (The Wikipedia definition of groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.)

The company was looking for fresh new “out of the box” thinking, however that in and of itself is a relative term.

The appetite for “out of the box” is larger at the new idea level than when bottom-line resource dollars are allocated to it.

I am pretty sure the “out of the box” phrase (within a company’s business unit) is synonymous with “effective communications” within the HR department’s recruiting efforts. Both are faint cries for help.

Even after taking on a newly-created role as New Market Development Manager, I had no better success getting management (managership) to see (interpolate) what those of us in the field could see (extrapolate.) I eventually accepted that I couldn’t make it “interpolatable” to them. Or, perhaps, that they didn’t care all that much to see or hear ideas, even if they had the potential to deliver on the stated goals of the company. What they could interpolate however, were the proposed projects that were extensions of what we were already doing. Big and juicy market spaces sitting low on the only trees we knew. Fruit that unfortunately rarely, if ever, exists.

Borrowing a term from one of my many pre-synapses along the way, I just kept adding more dead chickens around my neck. It was The Curse Of The Dead Chickens. The more extrapolative the idea, the bigger the dead chicken I wore. The more passionately I tried to deflect petty, irrelevant, and even at times appropriate technical or commercial criticisms, the stronger the stink that came from the already dead chickens. It seemed as if I simply gave these people heartburn, from bad chicken.

The day I announced I was leaving the company was coincidentally a day senior management was in for more R&D project molestation (otherwise known as Stage-Gate.) I have to admit that it felt good to see the shock on the faces of a handful of of them. Equally disappointing was their inability to congratulate or even give a “thank you” for my almost ten years of service.

In hindsight, I never saw what was right in front of me. I was unable to see how one or a few individuals can be the cancer of an entire organization. There were people in key roles at the time that clearly had their own agendas and self-interests. Taking part in anything else would distract them with the potential to inhibit their own upward trajectory. They actively undermined and purposefully exaggerated support for other things based on their own ominopotent agendas. What I was experiencing was one of the 6 Factors of Ultimate Potential (see article Dogs Don’t Second Guess Themselves, So Why Do We?).

Here’s a relevant quote from Stanislaw Jerzy — “No snowflake takes the responsibility for the avalanche.” Relevant because, by the time the avalanche happens, no one can remember where, when, and by whom the sequence of events started. Stick with me and you will have the lens to see these snowflakes as they are causing the proverbial avalanche.

This was the ‘Conditions and Circumstances’ I lived in and the Two Johns planted some very important seeds for me at the time. Seeds that led to thousands of hours of studying, researching, and hypothesis-testing. I could see both the problem and the “Ultimate Human Dilemma” (UHD) play out right in front me on a daily basis.

The UHD is simply the “frictions between the functions” between the two types of brain hardware that is acerbated by differences in the brain software.

The part that intrigued (and simultaneously depressed) me was learning how skewed the brain hardware is in the general population.

Hardware — Sensing (S), iNtuition (N), Software — Thinking (T), Feeling (F). The graph represents a composite of many sources of MBTI types grouped together by the dominant first and second functions. 75% are made up of combinations of Sensing hardware and 25% iNtuitive hardware.

Because MBTI is the most widely used personality assessment tool in the world, there is a lot of data available. The figure here is a composite I made from a dozen or so studies of MBTI types found in the population. I compiled them based on dropping E/I and J/P, as they are not as important as the actual brain hardware and software functions. In this way, you have only 8 possible combinations. This is what I call MBTI 2.0. Regardless of the source of the data or the country or region it came from the results remained consistent. The fact is only 25% of the population has extrapolative brain hardware (iNtuition or ’N’) and 75% of the population has the interpolative hardware (Sensing or ‘S’.) You will find that in many companies and institutions, the frustrations and dissent between employees and management is a sign of what I call Synaptic Divide.

The Synaptic Divide is where the extrapolative/intuitive/visionary individuals with brains wired to make sense out of things are in conflict with those who are interpolative/sensing/anti-visionary and need things to make sense to them. With every company I have examined in my career the divide begins with decision-makers that are not wired for vision/extrapolation. compounding the problem is they have no context or ability to realize these extrapolative limitations. Most often these are highly confident individuals who will say that are every bit as visionary as anyone else if not more visionary. It is a Catch-22 because they would never be able to understand what being intuitive/extrapolative is like. When there are extrapolative individuals in the organization, but not in positions of authority, these inevitable frictions continue to widen this divide as the company continues to speak of innovation as a form of desperation.

The Two Johns showed me how it was my responsibility to take what I could see (extrapolative vision) and make it tangible so that it could be interpolated. They even used the analogy of an old color TV and the tiny color pixel in the center that took several seconds to expand into a color picture. That was my job, to transform what was in my head into a color picture, and I had about as long to do it as that old color TV did. I continued to get better and better at it, but it is never perfect because of the “interpolator’s dilemma.” That was when I realized what synapsing was and how effective it is at catalyzing real change. Yet, I also continued to notice there was something missing from the equation. That is what led me to see what I now call the Ultimate Potential and the 6 Factors of UP.

I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a good name for it. “Ultimate Potential” was what I always came back to — mainly because of the definition of each word.

“Ultimate” meaning the utmost, the highest, the epitome or the pinnacle and “potential” meaning to have or to show the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. “Ultimate Potential” is what it is always about at the individual level.

Over the years I became quite skilled at MBTI and how to use it as a craft for deducing people’s functions, even from just a casual conversation. And, if I cannot determine it with high probability, I can certainly narrow it down substantially from the 16 possibilities. Even then there was something important missing and I wasn’t sure what it was. It wasn’t until I put my research into even higher gear in 2013 that I discovered it.

What I found missing was the “state of personal growth” of the individual. What I mean by this is that I didn’t have a way to measure beyond their functions to how “team-able” they were. Teams are what move the needle — period. Not CEOs or politicians. The ability to work effectively in teams is what allowed us to win the Battle of the Ice Age. Somewhere along our path of human history, entropy has caught up with us. We are even more dependent today on the success of our teams in the Knowledge Economy, yet, teams are forced, mismanaged, lack leadership, and rarely, if ever, form naturally.

Collectively speaking, what has been missing this whole time is a simple lens for qualitative judgment. A process that can not only be used by anyone but can become part of everyday life. A method that can be instilled in all of us as a filter that prevents the damage one cancerous person can cause. Almost like a cure for cancer, albeit at a team level.

Someone once told me, six months after receiving a sales award, that when you press a button you expect a cookie. No one wants to wait six months to get their cookie. This comment resonated with me. It is like the junk mail we get in our mailboxes and email inboxes. If it wasn’t lucrative and profitable, people wouldn’t do it. Therefore, those annoying buttons do indeed deliver cookies, they just aren’t coming from me.

Making the proverbial cookie rarer or harder to obtain only increases its value. The only way to curb this behavior is to take away the button. With regards to the inter-team cancer epidemic, it is as simple as self-arming everyone with the ability to simply remove these buttons.

This simple “button dismantling kit” is what I call the UP Factors (pronounced as the letter ‘U’ then the letter ‘P’.) There are six of them and they cannot be cheated, even by those who refuse to look into a mirror. They force honesty because anyone who knows the person can perform their assessment. This is the test that determines if someone has reached the level of BOM or has remained a 40/10'er.

The 6 UP-Factors

UP-1: Age

UP-1 is that simple. It is how old you are versus the other person or persons for which you are being compared. People such as your teammates or the other candidates for the job opportunity, for example. What most people don’t stop and think about is population growth. There were 3 billion people on the Earth in 1959. As of 2012, there are over 7 billion. Each and every day we add over 200,000 new people to the planet. Think about that for a second. That’s like adding the equivalent of Akron, Ohio every day.

When it comes to 3 billion people fighting for the 1 billion jobs (from the book 3 Billion New Capitalists,) you are not just competing with people your same age or even those who happen to share your birthday. If you are 42 and the other candidate is 31, you indeed have an advantage over them in age. However, the benefit of UP-1 can disappear quite quickly because it does not reveal what has happened during that “extra time.”

UP-2: Experience & Maturity

UP-2 is one of the most important of the six factors. This is the one that when you see it happening, stop giving this person the “benefit of the doubt.” They thrive on you and everyone else giving them that benefit. Next time you see it happening lean to the person next to you and call a spade a spade.

Wow, their UP-2 is really, really low.” Or perhaps it is the opposite and you can whisper “man, her UP-2 is off the charts, isn’t it?”

The essence of UP-2 is quite simple. If you have experience in a particular field it cannot be taken away. Someone who has ten years of direct experience will have an advantage over someone who doesn’t. The extent of the advantage is what should be questioned.

Hiring practices tend to put a lot of emphasis on the companies you used to work for, as well as the titles you once had. It reminds me of the same spine-bending cringe I get when I hear someone ask, “have they ever managed people before?” I have heard this question or comment more from within larger companies where “HR” might need a new name (see ASSROID as the new acronym for HR article.)

Managing people is what you are expected to do inside of the companies that ask this question. Leadership experience is not one that needs a cost center. In my opinion, it’s the department admins who are the managers that keep you out of trouble. Everyone else is a leader who gets their hands dirty.

What companies often miss is that you are far better off giving someone with high UP-2 the training they need than burdening the organization with a cancerous low UP-2 who cannot be “trained up” in that regard.

Without giving you the math per se, it is purposeful to combine these two arguably separate elements — experience and maturity. My definition of experience is simply that, the amount of direct content area experience. Maturity, on the other hand, is a measure that relates more to how often this person argues to be “right.” To understand the maturity side of the UP-2 metric, there are only four questions to initially assess. If this particular individual shows any repeat pattern of the following four, trust me, all the other negative traits are there.

  • Do they (more often than not) need to be “right” or otherwise “win” the debate or conversation?
  • Do they fail to actively listen and try to understand what others are saying while turning the focus somehow to themselves?
  • Do they rarely reshape their views and opinions after listening and considering the inputs, ideas or feelings of others? (Note: it is okay that someone might need a day or two to ponder before showing that they have reflected on the inputs and views of others.)
  • Do they often get noticeably irritated when others do not agree with them? For example, YOU ARE EITHER WITH ME OR AGAINST ME!

If someone has high experience score and low maturity score, don’t hire them. If they have high maturity score but low maturity score, strongly consider hiring them. If they have high scores in both, hire them immediately.

UP-3: Conditions & Circumstances

You have seen this combination of words from me several times by now. UP-3 is the “what” in “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” It is the tough stuff you go through in your life that leads to the development of brain function ambidexterity. It will not happen otherwise. I can also tell you with confidence that you cannot develop this ambidexterity when life is handed to you. Rather, it is far more likely to happen when life is handing you your own ass back after repeatedly kicking it.

As an example, I will use another one of my pet peeves. It pains me when I hear business professionals tell someone they have worked for too many companies, based on a superficial review of their resumes. Sure, there is a chance there are good reasons to not want to hire this person which could be tied to why they have worked for so many companies. More often than not, from my experience, this is a sign of exactly who you want on your team. These are people that have gone through some real tough mudder level stuff. They have likely seen how great teams fall to the cancerous effects of toxic people. These are people who have amazing insights into what worked and what didn’t work. Rock stars come from that kind of experience.

UP-4: Synapses & Supporters

This is the hardest of the UP factors to assess. Why? Because it forces more depth of thought and reflection, especially if you are assessing it for someone else such as a job or promotion candidate. From a self-appraisal perspective, it should be much easier to look back at who were the ones that made you who you are today than to look back into someone else’s past.

UP-4 is structurally unique and it was not done intentionally. It can be inferred if unable to measure directly, like balancing an equation. This is because of how intricately linked UP-4 is to the outcomes of UP-2 and UP-5, which are far easier to estimate for other people.

The take-away is if the ‘Synapses and Supporters’ are there to help you in your moments of deepest need, you will get the cradled foothold to step up towards the brain ambidexterity. You either have above-average scores in UP-2 and UP-5, or you don’t. If you don’t, how much more digging do you need to do in UP-4 or UP-3? If UP-2 and UP-5 score very high, learning more about the individual’s UP-3 and UP-4 is worth exploring for mutual personal growth.

Another symmetry of the UP Factors is how UP-1 and UP-6 are stand-alone to the integration of UP’s 2–5. UP-3 and UP-4 are intricately associated with UP-2 and UP-5. These two are more difficult to assess the less you know the person (UP-3 and UP-4.) The other two are easier to observe and can be done so without bias (UP-2 and UP-5.)

The reality is everyone needs UP-4 in their life. If it were only up to the UP-3 in your life, then the world would be teeming with people like Condoleeza Rice, wouldn’t it? Condoleeza lived her childhood in fear because her minister father was a civil rights activist. She lost her best friend at a young age when the church she was in was bombed. If that is the UP-3 soil that grows Condoleeza Rice-caliber people, wouldn’t we be over-flowing with leaders like Condoleeza Rice? She certainly had ample UP-4 to become what she did from the horrendous UP-3 she had during her childhood.

UP-5: The 3 H’s or JC’d?

This one is my favorite, although it didn’t start that way. It became my favorite after seeing how well it works and how much it aligns with any religion. It fits extremely well with the Hindu philosophy of “Brah” which is the highest Universal Principle; the Ultimate Reality in the universe. It is the pervasive, genderless, infinite, and the eternal truth and binding unity behind all the diversity that exists. It fits the searching throughout your life for a relationship with God or any religious deity.

UP-5 is a static capture of a dilemma itself. As an individual matures to this state of heightened reality, he or she becomes more attractive as prey due to our lack of a societal filter against it. Meaning, becoming Humble, Helpful and possessing Humility also usually makes you easy prey by those that become JC’d, or “Jaded with Chips” meaning having a chip on their shoulder.

Being jaded is the end result of having a steady flow of negative experiences, disappointment, and unfulfilled to the point where the anger circuits start to “burn out” and one accepts disillusionment.

UP-5 represents a fork in everyone’s road they must take. They either end up the 3H’s or JC’d, or somewhere on the path towards one or the other.

As UP-3 happens, and depending on what UP-4 you have in your life, the choice is still yours which direction you go for UP-5.

Are you Humble, Helpful and living your life with Humility or are you Jaded with a Chip on your shoulder?

You don’t build strong teams that create energy with UP-5’s that are JC’d. They consume energy and they often camouflage their true stripes each day. Are you the one giving them the benefit of the doubt on your team?

UP-6: Reading Functions

UP-6 is simply too much fun to delve into here. We will save this life-changing fun skill for a future blog. What you need to know about it is the importance of knowing:

  • What is your dominant hardware?
  • What is your dominant software?
  • What MBTI profile type fits you most?
  • What is the assessment of your UP factors?
  • Are you a BOM or a 40/10'er?
  • What is your prison space? Your prison space is your fourth function and will forever be the hardest to become more than modest at accessing it versus those that have it as one of their dominant functions.

Once you understand yourself, it becomes a lot easier to begin estimating others. It becomes as second nature as noticing someone’s hair color. It starts with looking for the clues of their hardware. Are they interpolators or extrapolators? If this is tough to discern, then start asking yourself the questions that reveal their dominant software. Are they clear decision makers on the rational applied logic or the emotional feeling and ramifications to others?

Once you have an idea, then ask yourself, what is their prison space? Find that and you have figured out the 1, 2 combination that they have been refining since birth.

Kelly Williams,,