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We are Operating Beyond our Red Line

What does it mean to be struggling with cognitive and collaborative overload
Man standing next to a red line indicating that we are beyond our personal potential due to cognitive and collaborative overload,

Growth Mindset is about exceeding our limits safely

The concept of a “red line” in our potential is a critical metaphor for understanding the limitations inherent in our cognitive and collaborative capacities. This red line symbolizes the point where our abilities and systems begin to lose their effectiveness.

Pushing ourselves or our teams beyond this threshold is akin to an engine running too hot; the system becomes strained, leading to decreased efficiency and a potential breakdown.

Man standing next to a red line indicating that we are beyond our personal potential due to cognitive and collaborative overload,
we are beyond our personal potential

Continuously operating past this red line can result in burnout, characterized by emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion from excessive and prolonged stress.

This state often sees a significant impairment or complete loss of productive capacity, underscoring the shortcomings of current systems and strategies when facing challenges beyond this limit. Merely doing more of the same becomes ineffective in such scenarios.

When challenges push us beyond this red line, it necessitates not just minor adjustments but a significant transformation or growth that extends beyond the capabilities of our current system.

This is where the distinction between a learning mindset and growth becomes evident. A learning mindset involves adding and deepening skills within the existing framework, focusing on acquiring more knowledge and refining skills. This development is incremental, typically within the comfort zone of our existing capabilities.

However, growth represents a more profound shift. It’s not limited to enhancing our current skill set but involves a fundamental reorganization of how we think, feel, and behave.

Growth propels us beyond our perceived capabilities into territories we never thought possible, often happening in the discomfort zone. This zone requires us to leave behind the familiar, challenging long-held beliefs and habits, and embrace entirely new approaches. This is how we increase our personal potential. 

Importantly, new capacity is often found by exploring and harnessing resources in our relationships.

This is our relational potential. When we become better at leading, influencing and mobilizing effort and resources to our goals, we can make major shifts in our overall potential. In this sense, relational potential is the biggest source of unharnessed capacity and crucially released via the six Safe2Great growth mindset principles. Relational potential is at least 4 times larger than personal potential.

When we grow personally and relationally, we let go of our reliance on old ways of working and relating to others. It demands not just confidence in what we know but also faith in our ability to adapt and thrive in novel situations.

This type of growth is transformative, leading to substantial changes in our identity and how we interact with the world. It’s about moving beyond the safety of the known, taking risks to explore and integrate new ways of thinking and doing, and developing capabilities that extend beyond our current ones, involving systemic changes in both individual and team dynamics.

Ultimately, sustainable growth builds resilience and capacities that enable us to meet future challenges without repeatedly crossing the red line. It ensures long-term effectiveness and well-being, emphasizing the importance of adaptability and psychological safety in both personal and organizational development. 

Skip Bowman, keynote speaker on psychological safety and growth mindset

Skip Bowman

Author of Safe2Great, keynote speaker on psychological safety and growth mindset

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