Sunday, August 29, 2010

Our Greatest Natural Resource

Studies show that we could easily become 37% more efficient in our water use. Gasoline engines themselves are only about 25% efficient while solar panels are typically around 15% efficient at capturing the sun's energy. Horrendous no? Billions of dollars are currently being invested in making more efficient use of our resources. But there is one resource that doesn't often make it into the news or into investment portfolios, and yet it is perhaps the area we can improve in the most: human potential.

How efficient do you think you are at work? I'm not talking about the hours spent doing actual work vs. playing solitaire. I'm talking about how much of your potential skills, experience, and intellect are being leveraged by your company. If you work at McDonalds, is following the cash register script and all the procedures really using your talents to the fullest? Or if you work in an office, do you really feel like your effort is producing the maximum impact that it can, that filling out TPS reports fulfills your destiny?

I'd guess that globally the true potential of the workforce is being utilized at less than one percent. The conventional wisdom is that work sucks. It's supposed to suck. Sure, some of us are lucky enough to like our jobs, and yet I bet we all still complain about the stupidity of management or beaureacracy or inane cost-cutting procedures or whatnot. These things irk us beyond belief because deep down inside, we know that these things are keeping us from our true potential. We know that we can be more, do more, if only someone knew how to unlock that hidden promise.

A colloquial scientific tidbit is that humans only use 5% of their brain. People always say, "Imagine what we could do if you used all 100%." Well, as a society, we leverage people's potential even less efficiently. Imagine all the things we could accomplish and the problems we could solve if we tackled this challenge.

It is a challenge that may entail changing corporate structures, social circles, cultural desires, residential systems, and even our political system. And yet, if we stop for a moment and imagine a world where every person is truly all that he can be, then maybe, just maybe it's worth the investment.

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