Unlocking human potential — proactive practices for individual elasticity [DCE]

Unlocking human potential — proactive practices for individual elasticity by Deloitte Center for the Edge

As the punny name might suggest, the “center for the edge” is not your typical Deloitte business unit. As big corporation skeptic, I found their research, specifically on future of work and human potential topics, to be surprisingly progressive and though-provoking. This piece is no different. Once you peel off the over-frameworky-ness (pretty sure this is not a word), you end up with a pretty powerful idea.

The core thesis

If we take as our goal sustainable, long term performance, the practices of slowing down and speeding up can be seen as complementary rather than contradictory.

We nourish our minds, spirit, and bodies through growth and exploration as well as through rest. When both sides are understood to be complementary and pursued deliberately to reinforce each other, the effect on unlocking potential is greater.

Roots and shoots

They define two type of practices, roots and shoots, and make the case that by adopting both and going through cycles of learning and unlearning, an individual can discover purpose and passion.


Entail slowing down and making space to discover and connect with the fundamental values that drive us. Roots can counter increasing stress and make us more open to exploration. A set of practices for connecting to our roots can can provide a foundation for speeding up.

  • Rest — taking time to pause — not only as a stopgap or a reaction to a constant pressure, but also, to break the busyness cycle and as an antidote to the increasing inefficiency of incremental work… Rest allows us to replenish and rejuvenate, which in turn allows us to be more effective, creative curious and resourceful in our efforts.
  • Reconnect — connecting to our core values and principles provides a touchpoint and affirmation of what truly matters. The communities that surround us provide safety and stability, as well as avenues for dialogue, reflection and reframing.
  • Reflect and reframe — in times of rapid change the past may no longer predict the future. The very things that made an individual successful may actually be his or her downfall when underlying assumptions and contexts fundamentally shift. In such times, we need practices that help us adopt new perspectives to see what is no longer working, and that help us muster the courage for unlearning old patterns and learning new ones.


Feed creativity and empathy, can stoke commitment and a sense of purpose, and involve exploring, expanding, and accelerating learning. Speeding up in the absence of rest, reconnection and reflection will likely lead to temporary, isolated learning.

  • Act — by participating in flows and gather data and experiences, we learn about ourselves and our environment. Being proactive and deliberate rather than reactive is a key differentiator of actions in this context
  • Amplify and accelerate — isn’t about doing more or staying busy. Instead, it means deliberately looking for relevant flows in order to connect with more people in areas related to one’s goals, get more data and feedback, and learn more rapidly about ways to have more impact
  • Adjust and align — learning cycles need to be rapid and iterative. With each exploratory action, in the shoots, the experience and information gathered is used to assess and adjust the short term learning focus.


Roots and shoots practices tend to map into one of six critical objectives (meta-practices) that are aimed at feeding and sustaining the learning cycle.


  1. Explore core values — proactive explore what lies beneath the surface:
  • Practice deep introspection
  • Journal and tell stories
  • Engage in deep discourse

2. Replenish and re-energize — take time to slow down and fight the epidemic of constant “busyness”

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Engage in energy and attention management
  • Implement digital detox
  • Say “no” — conscious decision to forego some potential opportunities

3. Cultivate community — seek external validation of reflection and reframing

  • Join communities of interest
  • Join communities of practice


  1. Shape serendipity — make space for the unplanned to surprise you
  • Take a sabbatical
  • Plan open time in your schedule
  • Say “yes” to random opportunities that are outside the norm

2. Explore edges — cultivate a sense of curiosity, possibility and imagination

  • Maintain a broad social network
  • Explore new topics

3. Be uncomfortable — expand your comfort range — emotionally, mentally, and physically — and cultivate a growth mindset and a beginner’s perspective

  • Practice failing
  • Shift parameters/repackage risks
  • Focus on process and practice, not outcome
  • Undergo voluntary physical discomfort
Unlocking human potential — proactive practices for individual elasticity [DCE]

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