OD work is in breakdown…HUMAN POTENTIAL realization is the next breakthrough

The purpose of this article is to,

  1. Shed light on why employee engagement is at an all-time low despite record amounts of money being spent on OD (Organization Development)
  2. Offer a concrete alternative to the status quo (unleashing greater levels of Human Potential realization), and
  3. Open up a conversation on how to further engage organizations on these new approaches

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“Conventional change initiatives spend most of the money, attention and effort focused on…the structures and systems that are needed in the organisation. Often this is expressed by Executive teams rushing first to a ‘restructure’ of the organisation chart…It also accounts for the immense popularity of Lean/6 Sigma business process reviews; again, people imagine that if only they could get the system right, then productivity would increase. The unfortunate truth is that most of these BPR efforts do not return the promised benefits to the organisation.”

                                        Brent Sheridan, OD Specialist


Gallup’s 2011-2012 “State of Global Workplace” survey exposed that a dismal 13% of employees surveyed across 142 countries were engaged at work! 63% of the workforce is not engaged (they are uninspired, lacked motivation and would do just enough to fulfill their job requirements), and a further 24% are actively disengaged.

Our own research has shown that on average only 50-60% of an individual’s talents and gifts (potential) are being utilized in their professions (see figure 1).

To compound matters, the challenges organizations face today are much more complex in nature than 30 years ago. For example, a single-minded focus on profitability and shareholder value is no longer sufficient. Organizations are expected to address the needs of multiple stakeholders (customer, employees, society, planet, etc.) and create true win-win-win solutions.


Organizations today are aware of the crucial need to fully realize its human potential as a means to survive in a complex landscape and produce results. Management acknowledges that a greater focus on its human capital is also critical in bringing meaning and purpose to individuals and driving employee engagement. However the actions, behaviours and investments needed to unlock the Human Potential are not yet being adopted.

Since the turn of the 20th century, “emphasis in most management methods continues to be on analysis; divide complicated tasks into manageable bites…and then glue them back together to produce the best performing system”[1] (see bottom-right quadrant in figure 2). One study has shown that the 2013 spending on corporate training exceeded US$ 130 Billion worldwide[2], almost all of which is spent on job skills, professional training or procedural or compliance trainings[3] (the Systems quadrant).

Although such a systems-based approach has been very effective at resolving the challenges of yesterday’s world and raising productivity and performance, it is simply not sufficient to deal with more complex and ambiguous environments of today.

This excessive focus on systems has created a disconnect between the individual needs and aspirations (a clear desire for greater engagement & meaning at work) and the collective awareness / habits of the organization.


Certainly there are a number of factors contributing to this disconnect. Anecdotally we know there is an implicit fear among organizational leaders and HR professionals that a focus on raising individual awareness (top left quadrant) will either lead to attrition (the employee realizing that their potential is not being utilized in the current work environment and therefore deciding to leave) or they ‘rocking the boat’ (when the ‘awakened’ individual starts challenging or disrupting the current culture and way-of-working).

More importantly perhaps, we have evidence that the mindset quadrant attracts the least attention because it is also one of the most ‘troublesome’, difficult and ‘invisible’ developmental areas for organizational leaders to deal with. Currently there are no practical and implementation-ready tools available to tackle the ‘Mindset and Inner Being’ quadrant in a robust, measurable and scalable way.  Hence many organizations shy away from it and instead focus on the other three quadrants. At least until now…


With the creation of the “HUMAN POTENTIAL Assessment Toolkit”, we can now close the gap between “knowing about it” and “knowing how to apply it”. The methodology is scalable from individuals and groups through to organizational-wide change.

This approach has been used by a varying set of clients worldwide; individual, organizational, political and NGOs. Years of refinement has made the model representative of the real drivers of Human Potential Realization (see 4 States & 23 Dimensions of figure 3), and the tool accurate in exposing how much of an individual’s or group’s Human Potential is being realized today (see color coding of Figure 3).

With the ability to measure how an individual or organization performs along these 4 States and 23 Dimensions, we can now, for the first time, open up data-based conversations on how to unleash greater levels of Human Potential and access the full value of the “Inner Being/Mindset” quadrant.


The Assessment, important as it is, is merely the beginning of an organization’s Human Potential journey (ENQUIRE). The next diagram (Figure 4) illustrates in more detail our unique methodology to drive change within the organizational context.

Following the ENQUIRE phase where the data and insights are revealed, we encourage the key stakeholders to spend quality time in DISCOVERY. The Discovery phase is about processing and integrating the insights so they can be transformed into actionable next steps, fully owned by the organization. During these workshops the client is invited to look deeply into the current beliefs and assumptions that drive their business decisions today and make very deliberate choices on who they want to BE going forward. This typically involves “Subtracting” (the process of taking the participants into a deeper thinking state where their existing notions, familiar ways-of-working, ideas and culture are subtracted), “Passaging” (releasing control of the familiar processes and stepping into the unknown to co-exist alongside uncertainty) and “Arrival” (seeing opportunities in uncertainties and allowing new possibilities to reveal themselves).

Finally, in the HARNESS phase, the organization is encouraged to visualize and speak about its new intentions in full details (via townhall meetings or other) and start shaping them into a new implementation plan (Re-scripting).

Targeted training and coaching programs are rolled out at the individual and group levels to make the new inner states a reality. Collectively new language and customs are adopted so that employees are engaged in more empowering ways. Management embraces new leadership habits, and the new consciousness is reflected in the management objectives and tools, like in the Business Balance Score Card (Re-sculpting).


Deep down we all intuitively know that when we unleash the immense Human Potential that remains hidden within individuals and organizations, there is an increased sense of fulfillment or wholeness that leads to a peak inner experience. Our empirical research also shows that when we can take employees to their peak potential, major breakthroughs in organizational performance invariably follows.

Furthermore, we believe today’s management is well aware of the importance of Human Potential realization on bottom-line results. This is evident from the significant amounts being spent on organization development (OD). But due to various reasons shown above, management has approached this challenge at a systems level. They have mostly ignored the individual aspect simply because of the scaling nightmare individual intervention entails.

The advent of the HUMAN POTENTIAL Assessment toolkit and the methodology has finally brought scale to the missing quadrant in figure 2 (‘Mindset and Inner Being’), both at an individual and organizational level. Plus, it is the only known assessment today that goes deep beneath the behavioural, personality and preference levels of an individual to expose findings at the mindset/BEING level.

Across Europe, North America and Asia, Human Potential work is rapidly turning into a movement. There are now 50+ certified Human Potential Coaches who are using these tools with their clients and creating significant shifts at the individual and organizational levels. Let us know if this work speaks to you. There are opportunities to experience the assessment yourself, run a pilot project in your organization or join a certification training if you wish to use this approach with your clients.


(credit for this work/model goes to Mark VandeneijndeJohn H Van Drie and numerous scientific and mystical experts who have contributed)

Innovation has become one of the biggest priorities for organizations today. According to a recent study by PWC, the most innovative companies are set to grow at twice the pace of the global average over the next five years (and three times faster than the least innovative ones).

However, it is startling to find that the current efforts – which include significant investments in innovation systems and process (for example, knowledge databases, market research and Design Thinking) – are yielding lower rates of return. According to a recent Deloitte study of the return on innovation for the Pharmaceutical industry, companies have seen a significant decline in sales (-50%) despite increases in R&D investment (+33%) between 2010 and 2015.

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Since the beginning of the Industrial Age, innovation has been important to businesses. But innovation first became the big obsession it is today in the early 90s simply because other improvement efforts like vertical integration and quality improvement practices had all peaked out.

When the innovation craze began, the biggest focus for innovation managers was on innovation-enhancing SYSTEMS. Systems speeded up information flow, accelerated the diffusion of knowledge across boundaries, enhanced communication between the researchers and derived insights from previous research. Systems connected labs and sources of science with each other. Organizations became connected to universities, research databases and global libraries.

The introduction of systems created quite a rush of innovations in the early 90s.

When that wave started to die down towards the late nineties, the next wave of innovations began with the introduction of a rush of innovation-enhancing PROCESSES. Suddenly, there were numerous releases of innovation methodologies, and I would come across innovation consultants who could be called upon to facilitate innovation teams through innovation processes.

Processes like brainstorming sessions brought together a bunch of stakeholders, wildly brainstorming using post-its, clustering them and evaluating these ideas against a select set of criteria.

The rapid prototyping process involves researchers responding swiftly when somebody has an idea or a customer says, “I very much like to have this”. Then they would instantly go into the lab and start quickly creating a very simple prototype.

Processes like Design Thinking and AGILE are very current and popular methodologies where inventors are made to step into the reality of the user, reenact the experience of the user, and use empathy and ideation to become part of the environment where a product is used.

When we listen into the industry, we hear that in spite of all these investment, innovation is drying out simply because process thinking is peaking. Companies are now desperately searching for the next wave of thinking for accelerating growth.

So what is the next wave of thinking that will accelerate innovation?

We at BEING AT FULL POTENTIALrecognize that the next wave of innovations is going to be unleashed by pulling the human lever. It is going to come from harnessing the human states – not systems and processes – by moving people into heightened states of awareness where they become infinitely creative.

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“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Albert Einstein

We have identified five human states of awareness where we are creative in different ways.

In the first state, a state that we call the State of Primitive Awareness, our mental faculties are so blocked that we cannot see beyond the problem. Consumed by fear or anxiety we are unable to see solutions.

People who are in this state turn into ‘deer in the headlights’ when they are confronted by problems in life.

You present a problem to a person who is in this state, and he just freezes. “Oh my God, at the end of this month I am unable to pay my bills. I don’t know what I am going to do!”

When they are in such a fear-driven or anxious state, they cannot see beyond the problem. They do not see any solution to a problem. No amount of reasoning or rational conversation is helpful when someone is in this state.

When people are raised to a slightly higher state, a more expanded inner state, they can see two solutions to every problem. We call this state the State of Binary Awareness.

In this higher state of awareness, people see two solutions to every problem; Yes or No, Do or Die, Black or White, Left or Right, Stay or Leave, Democrat or Republican.

Suppose you know someone who is having problems in her relationship. If you ask her what solutions she sees, she will come up with two options; one is that she will simply continue with her relationship as it is, or the second solution that she would see is to say good bye to that relationship.

In this state of awareness, innovation is binary. Most people I meet are in this state of awareness where they see two solutions to every problem.

There is a higher state, a third level of awareness. This is the first ‘breakthrough’ state where we step out of the binary state while still using the limited human mind. In this state, suddenly you can see beyond the typical two solutions that most others can see to any problem. You are able to step into the ‘space in between’ and see a third way to typical problems. It is not anymore…”yes I will put up with this unhappy relationship or I will get out this relationship”. You see the possibility to reinvent the relationship, or improve the communication or some other third alternative to the problem.

We like to call this third state of awareness the State of Divergent Awareness. This is also the first state where goodness becomes a motive of innovation. In this state, you feel inclined towards innovations that go beyond your personal benefits to embrace the collective good.

Many advanced thinkers and researchers experienced this state of awareness. Leaders like Gandhi and Mandela who reshaped nations and societies were able to access such third ways.

A great example of the creativity from this state of awareness is the famous story of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. found his revolutionary path that changed the course of racial division in the USA. As a young man suffering the indignity of racial division, Dr. King was presented with the standard two options that all other young black men were presented with; continue to remain subjugated or retaliate violently. But he found a third way; embrace the revolutionary path of non-violence and forgiveness.

When people step into an even heightened state of awareness that we call the State of Unconditioned Awareness, they will see multiple solutions to any given problem, sometimes even infinite solutions. We also call this state of awareness the ‘kidfulness’ state.

An innovation consultant once told me about an experiment involving 6 adults and 6 kids. Both groups were given a paper clip each and were asked to identify a bunch of uses of a paperclip. The adults came up with 15 uses for a paper clip. Guess how many uses the kids came up with?

Within a matter of minutes, the kids came up with 75 uses for a paper clip!

The kids’ minds being unconditioned can go in infinite directions. Because of the inner state in which kids are often in, they see space everywhere. In that expansive state, they can access infinite solutions to any problem.

Kids are immensely creative because of their unconditioned state. That is what we call ‘Kidfulness’; a state where our mind goes in infinite degrees.

When it comes to creativity, there is an ever higher state; an infinite, non-local state of awareness. This is the transcended state of awareness associated with sages. In this state, the problem disappears. For sages, adversities are just part of evolution. We like to call this state the State of Transcended Awareness.

When you present a ‘problem’ to people who are in this state of awareness, they do not see it is as a problem. You present to them global warming and climate change as problems and they are able to remain disentangled. As a result they are not in a ‘solution’ mindset, which is a reactive state. Instead, people in the State of Transcended Awareness are in a creative state. Their awareness is not localized to a problem, their awareness exists beyond problems.

In the midst of crisis or catastrophe, sages are able to see a new reality into which we are growing into. They see a current state of perfection and recognize that this is the place where we are meant to be today in order to grow into the next stage of evolution and growth. That state is really the State of Transcended Awareness.

THE FOUR LEVERS FOR SHIFTING MINDSET: Why Diversity is Important and How to Use the Four Levers to Build Diversity

Diversity is a social and natural imperative for any organization. It is the law of nature. Any entity that does not reflect the diversity of the ecosystem it exists within will become replaced by another that better matches the diversity of the larger system. It is through embracing diversity that microcosms embrace the intelligence of its environment and evolve in intelligence, maturity and consciousness.

Whether it is government, a business, a social organization or a community, this alignment between the heterogeneity of the entity and its environment’s will reflect in positive ways; greater compassion, higher profitability, greater social cohesion and more sociability, depending on the reason for existence of the entity.

Inversely, when there is a disconnect between the heterogeneity of the entity and its environment, it will lead to the decay of the entity in due time. It is just a question of when.

These days there is quite some anger around the income and wealth inequality experienced in the United States. The battle between the mainstream 99% and the other 1% who seem to have undue political and economic control over society seems to have boiled over and reached a breaking point. When a certain society does not reflect the natural equity of all beings, it is doomed to perish.

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Due to various reasons, today at the decision-making and policy-making levels there is a high awareness towards the need for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I notice diversity has found a place in the Business Balance Scorecards of many organizations. Leaders have handed down diversity goals, targets and quotas, and they’ve established Equal Opportunity commissions.

Yet, they have very slow progress to show for results. Why is that? What is the bottleneck in the pervasive adoption of diversity in workplaces?


Within organizations across the globe, we have identified two mindset-related issues blocking greater adoption of diversity.

One is that many middle managers – including line managers and recruitment heads – just follow a script when it comes to following the diversity mandate. They are doing what they are being told. The middle managers are handed down quotas and they deliver on them. They are being told to recruit equal number of women, so they go out and recruit equal number of women. And when the targets are met, they congratulate each other.

But they are not seeing any business benefits. All the promise that diversity leads to creativity and business building is not visible. As an example, when women come into the workforce, the whole culture of homogeneity and conformism sucks them in and squeezes out all the diversity in their thinking.

“You lose yourself in that [strong existing culture]. That is how I felt,” a very accomplished individual who worked for one of the globally renowned FMCG companies – and since left – told me. “When XYZ hired me, they hired a very diverse person, thinking wise. I always felt that I was very different than the people around me. But I was being trained to conform. And for a number of years I thought that’s what I got to do. And it got so painful and so difficult that I couldn’t survive in that environment, you know.

So, they lost a diverse person basically because of the culture. Even though they did a good job at recruiting a diverse person.

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The second mindset-related issue blocking greater adoption of diversity is when the mindset of those meant to administer the diversity agenda, viz. line managers and recruitment heads, is set on HOMOGENEITY. When this happens, none of the goals, targets, quotas or commissions can persist for long. When homogeneity is the mindset, recruitment managers only pay lip service to diversity. Their instinct would be to preserve what is familiar to them. Their actions would unconsciously protect their ideologies and belief systems. As a result, they might pretend not to find diverse candidates who match the job profile.

In Decision Theory, mindset is defined as a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviours, choices or tools.

When it comes to their diversity ambitions, organizational leaders from politics and business experience numerous bottlenecks at the organizational mindset level. Shifting mindset is not an easy thing. Mindset is often conditioned during childhood, and those beliefs stay with us in adult life and express in our personal and professional realms. Someone who has grown up believing that different classes of peoples belong to separate settings, or that a woman’s place is at home, will incline towards homogeneity in the workplace. Mindset is what leads people to extremism, rigidity of beliefs, attachment to ideology, dogmas, etc. Such is the power of conditioning.

Such mindset creates big bottlenecks to policy-makers and decision-makers who are sincerely intent upon nurturing heterogeneous organizations. Many leaders I speak to acknowledge that they are aware of this problem. And they are keen to master how to shift individual and organizational mindset. Here is where we can learn from the religious leaders of the past.

Religious leaders knew all about shifting mindset for centuries. They learned from the sages and the masters, and for good or for bad, they used their knowledge effectively. All religious practices and symbology originated out of this ancient understanding of how to convert mindset and keep its following.

In the next section we will look at the four levers that has been used for centuries to shift mindset and how that can be applied to creating diverse organizations on this planet.

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However deeply ingrained a person’s mindset is, there are ways to transform it. We just need to find the right levers to pull in order to change an individual’s or organization’s mindset. Four such levers are discussed below.


The first and foremost lever to shift individual or organizational mindset is VOCABULARY. If we want a new reality, we must speak a new vocabulary. For example, if there is only talk of war, war is what we will end up with. That is how we operate in consciousness. What we keep repeating to ourselves gradually becomes our reality. Alter your vocabulary and – in due time – the reality will change.

We saw this with the Civil Rights Movement of the Sixties in the United States. Dr. Martin Luther King lead the movement from the front by introducing a new vocabulary. He called on his fellowmen to resist from annihilating the enemy through hatred, rather converting them through love. He constantly spoke of forbearance and reconciliation instead of retribution.

Dr. King’s vocabulary suggested a post-revolution reality where the blacks and whites co-existed as friendly neighbours. As a result of such an approach the Civil Rights Movement did not degenerate into civil war. Instead it opened up the possibility in the US mind towards a reconciled world. It changed a segregated mindset to a unified one.

Even as we write this piece, the US presidential primaries are ongoing these days. One of the candidates, Bernie Sanders, stands out from the pack for his use of vocabulary to create shift in the US. By using simple and clear language, he speaks to the highest aspirations of a disillusioned generation of youngsters. He consistently repeats his vocabulary…..over and over and over again.

“Enough is enough,” he keeps repeating. And now Americans realize that voting for Sanders means putting a stop to the old ways.

He effectively uses his vocabulary to move what Americans know at the subconscious level to the conscious. By being so intentional in his vocabulary, Sanders is signing off on a new culture.


The second lever for shifting mindset is rituals. Rituals are perhaps the most effective lever to transform an individual’s or organization’s mindset. They rewire your brain and impact the way you think, speak and do things.

I found this definition of rituals on the net; Rituals are a series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone.

The All India Radio employees in Pune, India, do a ritual every morning. They start their day listening to a positive news item. Every morning all employees gather together and one positive news item is shared in the office. It is not just read out, they revel in it for a few minutes, they applaud the heroes in the story, they adopt the standards seen in the story, they embrace the moral, etc. Then they start their days work.

When rituals are adopted while holding the right intention in your thoughts, it will swiftly transform your mind and body. The secret is to conceive the right ritual that holds the appropriate intention behind it. How quickly a ritual transforms your mindset depends on how intensely you hold the intention in your awareness and how frequently you engage in the ritual. Whether at an individual level or organizational level, you can achieve transformation in a matter of days with the right rituals. Such is the power of rituals.

One of the organizations that I’ve helped have supported all cross-functional teams to create a set of ‘operating standards’ that each team member would repeat at the beginning of each meeting. This has drastically improved the listening, collaboration, humour, lack of judgment, gratitude, etc. in the team work. Some teams have since testified that their rituals have lifted their morale and team spirit.

So go ahead and conceive your own daily rituals. You could take several deep breaths before a meeting. Or you could say a prayer, or sing or chant, or you could make a practice of celebrating outstanding group efforts, or an informal early morning meeting over coffee to support each other or seek to be in service. You could end of day with an informal roundtable or a ‘learning session’. Imagine.


The third lever for shifting mindset is ceremonies.

One of my dear friends, a Maori elder from New Zealand, once told me that they do a simple but powerful ceremony every time any woman in their village is going through a difficult time in her life. They do not engage in all kinds of intellectual examinations…no psychoanalysis, no problem-solving. The whole village would gather and perform the Haka, a traditional Maori warrior dance, for her! It gives her a sense of identity in the village and she feels cared for. It gives her the strength to continue facing her adversities. More importantly, the ceremony raises her to a new, deeper level of awareness where she can access new answers for herself.

We have heard the famous quote from Albert Einstein: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Ceremonies have the power of raising us to different levels of awareness where we start to see solutions to problems that eluded us previously.

Most corporations do annual functions for one thing or the other; to felicitate customers or suppliers, to enhance creativity and innovation, to celebrate its diversity, to reinforce the vision of its founders, to bring renewed focus on cost or quality, etc. Such functions are valuable in shifting collective mindset … if the purpose of the ceremony is crisp and designed around a single issue.

Participants in a ceremony should not be engaged solely at the mental level. They should engage in the ceremony with their whole body with no inhibitions holding them back.

Ceremonies have the power to develop greater meaning and deeper relationships, whether they be personal, organizational or community ceremonies. Ceremonies help focus the collective intentions for yourself and your organization. Ceremonies acknowledge that life as it has been is changing, and it is important to process the change collectively. Going through any type of ceremony reminds us of what has been happening in the past and what we are moving towards.

Ceremonies offer us a broad picture of the future and instills in us a common sense of purpose. For example, when Pope Francis was crowned, we learned about his new vision and priorities for his institution and followers.


The fourth lever for shifting mindset is symbols.

A community college in Canada that I have supported in the past discovered that diversity was at the very core of its decades long heritage. Both staff and students of various races have always felt at home in that college. However, for a few decades it had lost touch with its rainbow nature. Hence in an attempt to fully reclaim its diversity and display it to the world, the management of the college decided to create a new logo that reflected its diversity. It adopted a multi-coloured logo that was instantly recognizable as inclusive. Today I witness a real sense of ownership from the faculty and students towards the logo.

Symbols resonate with you on a deep level. They are reminders of what you stand for. They stimulate your thoughts and ideas, and awakens your deeper mind. They have the power to penetrate you and code its message deep within your subconscious.

The meaning that you assign to the symbol is what it will stand for. So continue to enforce its meaning, and slowly others will also associate the symbol with its meaning. The more a symbol is used to convey a particular message, the more timeless the message becomes in your mindset.

Your life is shaped by the many symbols that have passed through your life, inherited from your culture, your family, your mythology or your society. Newspapers, internet, TV, and movies have a similar impact. These symbols are the models that you pattern your life after.

Symbols becomes potent when they are distinct and represent one clear message. Symbols should be placed everywhere where you – and others – can encounter them.

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Diversity is an individual, organizational, social, national and global priority today. All across the globe, the landscape is turning into pockets of polarized groups that is unrepresentative of the blend of nature. Such a landscape is unsustainable, whether it be a home, an organization or a nation. That calls for an urgent shift in our individual and collective mindsets.

The deeper part of our individual and collective self needs vocabulary, symbols, rituals and ceremonies to shift its consciousness and move towards true diversity. That is the essence of this article.