What is potentiation? It’s a combination of things that together are more powerful. I use the term to define a process of building on your strengths for even greater success. Think caffeine with aspirin making aspirin more potent.
According to the dictionary, potentiation is defined as “to make more effective or active, or to augment the activity of (as with a chemical or drug) synergistically.”
Start with strengths: Potentiation helps you explore what your strengths are, either as an individual or as an organization. You start by looking at what’s working well. Where are the successes? Then you use those strengths as a diagnostic tool to look at what needs to be developed further.
It’s a highly effective development process, a way of seeing yourself differently. I use it with individuals, teams, and whole organizations. It’s easier with the help of an outside perspective but you can use it yourself, exploring your own areas for growth.
Using strengths as a clue: For example, if you excel at big picture thinking, explore how you manage detail. Or, if employee engagement is very high, look at how your organization manages accountability. A highly collaborative team may find it difficult to work through conflict. A business focused on customer service may lack focus on efficiency. Even when it doesn’t look like a strength, it might be; think of a team that is argumentative – their strength may be advocating for their opinions and they have difficulty being willing to sub-optimize for the good of the whole.
We tend to rely on our default behaviors and strategies (especially under stress), and then limit our range. In an earlier blog post I described a highly self-reliant leader forgetting to find political support. Think of your dominant hand versus your other hand.
Once you understand what you have and what’s missing, your work becomes a process of experimenting with something new. The word “experiment” is key.
Experiment: Action oriented leaders often want to just jump to a solution. Instead, you need to beta-test alternatives. Experimentation is a process of trying something new to see if you like it and persisting through the awkward stages. A new golf swing, a new language, a new musical instrument are all uncomfortable. New things feel awkward. There’s a reason you continue to rely on your default. Whether it’s new strategy or new behavior, new solutions need time and tweaking to become the best solutions possible.
The goal of potentiation is to give you more choice, and to build your individual and organizational capacity so you are stronger than ever before.
What do you do well?