10 ways to unleash some potential

There are many people in organizations of whom the potential is not fully utilized.
If we could find ways to unleash this potential, organisations will become a lot more productive and people a lot happier.

Ten ways to unleash (some) potential.

1. Get rid of org charts

Earlier I made a please to get rid of org charts (“Can we get rid of org charts?“). If you put people in a box, they start to behave like that. If you like people to grow, to be creative and to use their potential: get rid of the boxes. Some people think it helps to give the box a nice name (“Creative department”), but it does not.

2. Get rid of job descriptions

This is clearly connected to 1. You would have thought job descriptions would have died a long time ago, but they are very resistant to change.

3. Remove a layer (or some layers) of management

This is an easy one. Many organisations still have too many layers. This does not help to unleash potential. Potentials need room, and managers are not very good at giving that.

4. Create an internal opportunity market

Most people can do a lot more than you think. If they are confined in a box guided by their job description, it will be difficult for you to find out what more they can do. It helps to just ask. Post interesting assignments on your intranet and  ask who wants to contribute. Even if you limit the possibility to contribute to special assignments to 10% of people’s time, you can gain a lot. People tend to put a lot of effort in assignments they like, so many will put in more than the 10%.

5. Give stretched assignments

Don’t be too shy. Ask more than you expect. People like stretched assignments, because that is where they can show their value.

6. Give young people big chances

Young people and new people are undervalued. In most organisations the learning curve can be a lot steeper, if you dare to take some risks.

7. Allow your people to work x% of their time on projects they choose (a la Google)

This practice is becoming more common now. Allow people to work x% of their time on their own projects. Surprising new initiatives will be developed, and people will like it so much that they will put in more time and effort.

8. Let people make their own planning

It feels a lot better if you can be the master of your own time. Let people make their own planning, and let them work when it suits them best.

9. Do not hire enough people

Scarcity lads to creativity. If there is a continuous shortage of people, people will be pushed to be more creative in getting the job done.

10. Create teams of high potentials

Good people like to work with good people. It has been shown that the output of a high potential becomes higher if she or he is surrounded by other high potentials. So, do not spread the high potentials thin, but cluster them together.


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