Are our strengths any real indication of our potential or performance?

Dr Boris Altemeyer, Chief Scientific Officer, Cognisess explores the pros and cons of basing organisational strategy on strengths versus potential.

As human beings, we all have our strengths and enjoy being reminded of them or praised for them.  It is easy to concentrate on those, as they appear to come naturally to us and often without too much effort. But that doesn’t necessarily make us the rounded individuals or leaders we really aspire to be. Often it is the areas we find hardest to apply ourselves to, which are the ones we need to concentrate more on in order to become better. If not careful, our strengths are something we can hide in rather than open ourselves to the more challenging of rigours and adventures – particularly where we are facing new environments, challenges, threats or opportunities. One of the most misquoted aphorisms used in the modern context is the belief that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution stated ‘only the strongest survive’. He didn’t say that. He in fact said – ‘the most adaptable species were most likely to survive’.

And whilst our strengths are attributes we can and should draw upon to compliment the range of tools we have at our disposal, it must not be forgotten that these are limited to a personal status quo and usually within a single or particular area of application.

At Cognisess, we assess the whole potential and preferences of a person (or team), which can be applied across many different areas and can be developed on further.  Knowing your strengths alone may help you get better at what you are already good at, but it will not in itself necessarily contribute to making a great organisation or culture – particularly if that strength is in over-abundance or possibly not essential to the prevailing challenge. More critically it is about profiling strengths with potential and how these can be applied dynamically in the right circumstances and context. This becomes particularly important when trying to build cognitively diverse teams where innovation, change or transformation are mission critical. After all, if you stick to your status quo – then you are only ever likely to get more status quo. However, if entrenchment is the main strategy for the business – then those status quo strengths may indeed help you achieve that – and probably with some to spare.

A personal development plan based on some strengths is certainly a good starting point – particularly for building confidence. However we believe that personal development plans need to take into account much more than just strengths that already exist. Very often it is the potential and hidden strengths you didn’t know (or think) you had – or were told you didn’t have – that equate to higher performance and greater fulfilment. Often – where there is no clearly defined pathway, or problems are getting increasingly complex and inter-connected within the business – it is having a greater understanding of a person’s or team’s entire skills mix and potential that is crucial. It is this insight within the context dependent situation that makes people (and often the least expected candidates) highly valuable in an organisational context.

From a commercial perspective, there are also very distinct financial differences between the deployments of a multi-dimensional platform like Cognisess versus a simple, one-use, strength-based assessment. Cognisess Pro is not only designed to be a strategic tool that maps whole organisational talent pools and potential, it is also flexible enough to inform quick, tactical decision making in terms of team building, talent profiling, recruitment and development needs assessments.

Because it is very cost effective in comparison to other assessment tools, it is more widely available and affordable to profile entire functions and divisions, rather than be only used by a select group of high-level individuals or high performers.

Furthermore, because the Cognisess system, powered by Deep Learn™ our predictive analytics engine, is based on a recursive learning structure it is powerfully able to ingest people assessment data alongside available workforce and market specific data. This supports the strategic management of human capital and helps identify where minor adjustments in talent deployment and training may lead to significant benefits in terms of performance and ROI. This is particularly useful when used for its performance appraisal features whereby someone’s strengths, talents and potential can be assessed against actual performance outputs.

Our Cognisess Pro assessment platform provides a suite of over 40 assessments, plus the ability to analyse video, audio, and linguistics, for a very competitive price – which is, per candidate / employee, often lower as a per annum subscription than a single strength based assessment.

Increasingly within most organisations, the strength of a person today may not be the answer to competitive edge tomorrow. Adaptability and learning are therefore at the core of everything that Cognisess Deep Learn™ does to predict future performance of a team or individual in a highly dynamic environment.

Identifying potential and making it actionable where it counts – welcome to Cognisess Deep Learn™.

For more information about Cognisess Pro and how it is powered by Deep Learn™ get in touch at