Some individuals or institutions may sing praises about past glories and track records, but it may appear there is more persuasion to potential rather than historical successes.

In an interesting article that talked about Prof Tormala and his team’s study of how potential may be more compelling than reality when it comes to decision-making, we realize that how we arrive at decisions are not necessarily a mathematical or logical decision.

I would tend to agree. I too, fall prey to simply presenting my extensive experience and skills to employers (when I was an employee) and to clients (as a consultant) alike. After all, the comfort of knowing what has been accomplished, seems to resonate with others, and myself.

But increasingly, that is no longer the case. When we are helping clients scout for talents, or when we are looking for people ourselves, we would tend to evaluate the person based on what we perceive as mere potential, rather than desiring to find “track records”. There are many reasons, but let us name two.

First, we have observed some people with experience, also packing along baggage of obstinate complacency, since doing particular roles can be easy and uninspired, and simply relying on tried and tested methods rather than thinking hard and creatively to arrive at new ways to tackle problems and challenges.

Second, with experience, some people tend to begin to inflate their egos, beyond their levels of competency and potential. The result is that there may be professional conflict, which in a tightly-knit team, will be undesirable for team leaders to have to deal with. A collegial team putting all their creativity and talents together to help solve problems, is much more desired than prima donnas on the downhill.

Those without experience, but with enthusiasm, curiosity, tenacity, commitment, professionalism, and humility, would be far more valued in my opinion, because I can develop these emerging talents and help them reach their full potential, while they would also be able to play well in a tightly-knit team to reach joint objectives for clients.

Look around us, and it is not too difficult to find spectacular failures where people of extensive track records were put into roles that may not have worked well. It is an increasingly complex world we live in today and there are complex scenarios that demand humility, continuous learning, and a capacity to adapt to changing scenarios. Clients demand new ideas, new methods, new processes, to tackle ever-changing business problems, and even old problems tired of old solutions.

So a cautionary note to myself: Having a person with enough humility to be an empty cup desiring to be filled, is far more desirable than a cup previously filled with no room to spare. Being a person who is a “positive maybe” is much better in today’s world than a “has been”.