Space Shuttle Atlantis is seen as it launches from pad 39A on Friday, July 8, 2011, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Growth Trajectories of Underachievers (or “Hidden High Potentials”)

E. Forrest Christian Coaching, Underachievers 1 Comment

Hidden High Potentials (2HiPo’s) and other “underachievers” can learn a great deal from work done on extremely high IQ children. Although Elliott Jaques & Katherine Cason describe these things in a more systematical way in Human Capability, these Gifted Children researchers provide a much needed human face. Stephanie S. Tolan, an “advocate for extremely bright children”, talks about the growth trajectory of “the gifted ex-child” in ways that will ring true to those I call “hidden high potentials”:

Recently a definition of childhood giftedness as “asynchronous development” (Columbus Group, 1991) was advanced to look at giftedness from a phenomenological viewpoint, considering what it is like from the inside. Throughout childhood asynchronous individuals reach noticeable and clearly defined developmental milestones and acquire various skills earlier than other children. But the difference is not mere precocity, not just “getting there sooner.” The child who deals with abstract concepts early brings those concepts to bear on all later experience. This different, more complex way of processing experience creates essentially different experience. The result is that the differences, far from shrinking as the child develops, are likely to grow larger. A child whose cognitive development is within the normal rather than the gifted range will not “catch up” with the gifted child any more than a younger sibling will catch up in age with an older sibling. The developmental trajectory diverges early and does not come back to norms.

This is the struggle of the high-moders if they are not “recognized” by someone who is further along in their trajectory band (“Mode”). The general idea is that you have to have this recognition so that you understand that while others don’t understand you it’s not because you aren’t trying but because they probably aren’t capable of doing so. The recognition, that ability of people within the same mode but at different points along the trajectory to understand each other as if by telepathy, is given for the vast number of students.

Only for some this recognition never appears, leaving them struggling to find a voice or withdrawing into their own worlds.

Tolan describes this using through “Asynchronous development”, where you are out of step with peers.

“Asynchronous development” may not be as relevant in adulthood, because adult development is not as time dependent. It stretches over a far larger time span and is not so closely tied to physiological development. It is not necessarily a steady, upward progression which all adults experience at different rates, but far more than in childhood is a matter of personal growth and choice. We expect adults to be able to use abstract reasoning; we are not as likely to notice one whose reasoning takes him into complex realms where most other adults could not follow, as we are to notice a child who uses abstract reasoning long before other children can. If an adult decided to learn every single written human language, she would not likely be thought of as learning them earlier than other adults, as few other adults would choose to pursue this goal at all.

CIP progression chart showing Modes, Stratum and growth trajectories

Growth progression chart for several clients of The Manasclerk Company (trajectories after Jaques and Stamp) – click for larger

This is something that Jaques does not seem to deal with in his discussion of modes. And why I think that Kinston may be right when he implied in that GO Society exchange that there are several hierachies. The high mode individual may pursue something that others fail to understand because his mental life is outside of their experience. Kinston’s published materials on inquiry have a lot to say here, that the highest level of inquiry is really contemplative. That level may only find usefulness as it is worked out into details further below, but it is in this pure thinking realm that major breakthroughs.

I note that our world could go for some major breakthroughs. I do not believe that the leaders we have are capable of imagining the new world order. It turned out to be very similar to the old world order that the stuffed shirts thought up back with Rhodes.

Our companies are likewise in need of new thinking. The markets are changing, the original dust of the Information Revolution is settling, leaving us to the real transformations that are coming. We have a mother lode of high-capability lying in our bottom ranks. It’s an almost instant solution to the Succession Crisis. Right now, most people who could use their talents don’t want the work that comes with it to get them into usable shape. And, yes, many of them are truly playing a much higher game than the simple one of business. (In this I think that Kinston is right, and there are different hierarchies that play out differently.) But many of them can be groomed for upper management or executive staff positions, if we are willing to take the time.

Doing so has some strong consequences, especially for what Jim McCarthy calls the distribution of “free alpha”, a description of monkey-based politics that occur within human groups. Monkey brain normally wins out over human brain, which is why it is better to be tough on criminals rather than prevent crime from happening.

Image Credit: Final mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis launches. NASA photo by Bill Ingalls.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

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