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Fully Engaging with the Big Idea

Despite the pervasive myth to the contrary, success is not contingent on whether or not you know about the big idea. Success is hidden in our capacity to fully engage, period. Big ideas are everywhere.

To use the example of Gallup’s big idea on the predictive power of engagement cited in Jan van der Hoop’s article earlier this month on “The Noise about Engagement”, why has this big idea not translated to success for more companies?

To recap briefly, Gallup, quite a few years ago, intuitively stumbled into the correlation between engagement and business performance. They found that the more emotionally engaged the individual, the more likely they were to bring their whole self to the party. Their willingness to bring their full selves; head, heart and guts to the party translated into higher productivity, profit and growth for the companies they worked for.

From a statistical perspective, this has been proven over and over again by Gallup, by Dan Goleman and before him by Bain and Company, regarding the implications of loyalty and trust. An inability to fully consider the subjective emotional implications of change was cited by Kaplan and Norton, in their Balanced Scorecard research, as the #1 reason up to 75% of organizational change efforts fail. Before that, sports psychologists such as Jim Loehr have published that a fully emotionally engaged athlete will outperform a less engaged athlete every time. To add one more reference source so as to round out the mix, those in the marketing and sales world have collectively known since the 50’s that we buy emotionally and rationalize our purchase logically, after the fact.

So, for 60 plus years, we have known that the power of emotions has been the long standing big idea behind the success or failure of almost every big idea.

Herein lies the paradox. We are hoping to rationalize and intellectualize emotion and therefore control that which is uncontrollable. Until we trust enough to let go, we will fail to fully engage our emotions and therefore fail to realize our true performance potential.

Emotions are made up of information and energy. The rational part, the information, is pretty easy to deal with. The irrational part, the energy, tends to freak most people out. To master emotions it is necessary to go beyond an intellectual understanding of emotional intelligence and embrace the experience of emotions through awareness that leads to mastery. Although we cannot control the energy, we can learn to be in charge of it and use it to greatest advantage. In this way, emotional competence, even more than technical and conceptual competence, defines our individual and collective performance bands.

We all tend to operate within some historic performance band. Performance, in the context of a performance band, can relate to our ability to change, our ability to make more money, sell more, produce more and it also defines our ability to be intimate and trusting in relationships.

Each of us has a success tolerance that defines the upper limit of our performance band. With big success comes big emotion, and using the example of those who win lotteries, it explains why almost all those who win big end up losing it all or giving it away within a couple of years, falling back quickly into their historic performance bands. On the down side, each of us has a risk tolerance that defines how much we are willing to risk, lose, fail… which defines the lower limit of our performance band. To win big, one needs to be willing to fail big, and to accomplish that one needs to be prepared to engage fully in experiencing the wide range of emotional ups and downs that life has to offer.

This brings us full circle in our exploration of why knowing about the big ideas is not enough. To improve our performance we need to move beyond the comfort of our existing performance band and learn how to consciously interact with big energy to access big insight and big performance. In a world that is speeding up beyond our ability to rationally predict what the future holds, the right structure, safety and skill make it possible to fully engage with every big idea that comes along.

It is our ability to fully engage, our ability to respond and our ability to adapt that define our level of engagement, responsibility, adaptability and ultimately our performance... all of which enable us to realize the benefits from the latest big ideas behind the big ideas.

If any of this engages you, I welcome all comments and enquiries at

Tim Glover CA, CMA, BMath
Co-founder of Jump-Point
Sustained Innovative Advantage. Now

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