Last time I suggested that a sweeping strengths movement larger than we’ve ever seen could be coming. I defined strengths as, “your best means of contribution and contentment,” and wrote that few us have really tapped into the talents, traits, skills, knowledge, values, and more that are within us. And I commended us to seek humility as we seek our strengths.
With this as the backdrop, I want to share seven drivers of a contagious worldwide strengths movement. This would be a strengths movement that is adopted by the majority, applied to multiple sectors of life, and which unlocks human potential in multiple areas of strength in order to bring maximum good to the world.
No one can own this movement, as it will be driven by the following:
1: Proliferation of Strengths Agents
The number of strengths agents in the world continues to grow. By strengths agents, I mean people moving the strengths movement forward in their own unique ways. They are thought leaders, content publishers, artists, coaches, consultants, mentors, organizational leaders, speakers, scientists, and more. Strengths agents plant the seeds of human potential wherever they go and look for ways to water them. With today’s content and communication tools, they can spread their message, meet with people, and achieve goals never before possible. All they need is the liberty to do so.
2: Rising Strengths Technology
Throughout time, technology has enabled folks to perform better and faster. Rising technology will do the same for the strengths movement. In his best-selling book, Principles, Billionaire businessman Ray Dalio writes,
“As these machines help us, they will learn about what we are like—what we value, what our strengths and weaknesses are—and they will be able to tailor the advice they give us by automatically seeking out the help of others who are strong where we are weak.”
Imagine technology that takes us beyond strengths information (we already have that) through strengths utilization to strengths optimization. Imagine technology that helps us identify which of our strengths to use in a particular situation or tracks our usage of strengths like a fitness tracker or connects users worldwide to solve problems or relate to one another around common strengths. Strengths-based technology will change the way we live and work.
3: Apprehension Around Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
While strengths-based technology will help drive the strengths movement, so will apprehension around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Although 61% of people believe society will be better off due to increased automation and AI, 39% believe society will be worse off or are unsure, according to a global study on attitudes around AI.
This apprehension around AI and machine learning will drive people toward greater personal awareness and discovery around what makes them unique. Discovering individual strengths and the quest to release human potential will increase as a means to balance AI and machines. “Yeah, but can your robot do this?!”
4: Open Source Economy Driven by Social Media
The open source economy encourages open collaboration and sharing of resources for the benefit of all. Social media perpetuates the open source economy by enabling the distribution of resources and fueling open commentary. Sharing freely with open hands is a value of the open source economy, and the community loves it. Restricting what is seen as “toward the common good” with closed fists is an antithesis of the open source value, and the community opposes it.
When strengths agents, strengths-based technology, and the open source economy come together, powerful synergy happens. It’s explosive and contagious. Agents are free to create, improve, and collaborate, while technology takes folks farther into strengths than they ever dreamed, while the open source economy and social media encourages and rewards the work that is happening.
5: Strengths to Meet Your Needs
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory explaining human motivation. It says that human needs can be understood in order of priority, so that the most important needs are physiological needs, and the least important needs have to do with self-actualization:
- Physiological needs: food, water, shelter
- Safety needs: safety from harm
- Love/belonging: intimacy, friendships
- Esteem: status, recognition
- Self-actualization: reaching one’s potential, in other words, using one’s strengths
With this theory, using one’s strengths is the least important of the needs. But since strengths are one’s best means of getting results, what if instead of being understood as the least important need, strengths were seen as vital in meeting all “upper” needs? What if strengths were seen as your best means for finding food, water, and shelter; or achieving the sense of safety; or finding friends? What if when helping people get clean water, we taught them how to use their strengths to get clean water?
6: The Mark of Millennials
According to Gallup, millennials make up 38% of the workforce, and in the coming years, that percentage will only increase. Millennials want to know—they want regular feedback from their managers about how they’re doing. They want to grow—development and progress are highly important to them. And they’re okay to go—they’re the most unattached and mobile generation and are fine with leaving a workplace if it’s not meeting their needs. The result is an expectation among the largest generation in the workplace to understand their strengths, use them, and grow in them, and workplaces to adjust their practices accordingly.
7: Strengths-Based Management
In the book, Measure What Matters, author John Doerr chronicles the management style of organizations like the Gates Foundation, Google, and Intel. He writes that annual performance management used to focus on employee weaknesses but is now being replaced by continuous performance management focused on employee strengths. Gallup’s research confirms this trend from weakness to strength-style management. This trend of management-by-strengths will permeate successful organizations, and create expectations in employees to be led that way.
It’s already an exciting time to be part of the strengths movement, but with the above drivers, the best is yet to come.
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