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  • Irina Ketkin, author of #adventuresofthelearner

Strength-based approach to development (CAPP)

In the CIPD L&D show I attended, one of the first presentations was by a company called CAPP. They have developed a model (R2) leveraging the strengths of a person and using those to accomplish his or her goals.

In practice, there are 4 types of strengths:

  • Realised Strengths

  • Learn Behaviours

  • Weaknesses

  • Unrealised Strengths

Realised strengths refer to all those qualities that give you a lot of energy and motivate you. So naturally, you want to do more of them. But it might always be practical, so it’s a balancing act of dialling up and down.

Learnt behaviours are all those things you’re already good at; in fact, you’re so good at them that no longer pose a challenge and bore you. So you try and do less of them whenever possible.

Weaknesses, as you’d imagine, refers to things we are not very good at and things we would generally avoid. Of course, the smart thing to do here is to be aware of your weaknesses and try to limit their impact.

Unrealised strengths are all those things that get you really excited but you still have a lot to learn before you master them.

The 2 representatives from CAPP showed a sample report and did a mock coaching session around it.

While I think the model itself is very good and focuses on the positives, I do see couple of shortcomings.

Firstly, to get a report you need to fill out a self-evaluation questionnaire. While this might be sufficient for someone who knows themselves really well, if you have some serious weaknesses that you don’t even know about, they might not show up in the report.

Peter Borkenau and Anette Liebler did an experiment that involved a person sitting in a room and another one coming in, reading a standard weather report and then leaving. When asked to guess the Fake Weatherman's IQ, the participants' prediction was 66% more accurate than the Fake Weatherman's guess himself. The discovery from this experiment was that we are really bad self-evaluators. We tend to take the rosiest possible interpretation of our personality, character, memories and experiences. There are also numerous studies that show we think of ourselves above-average. Dan and Chip Heath call this positive illusion. And this positive illusion would be a real barrier to making some changes in our behaviour and beliefs.

Secondly, I don’t see this model applicable in every situation. If you’re dealing with an underperformer who doesn’t know that s/he is an underperformer, you run the risk of making the situation look too rosy. Once again, the positive illusion is at play here. And how so we scatter the positive illusion without focusing solely on the negatives?

Finally, when it comes to team reports, they combine all the individual scores and produce a report based on the average. While this might give you some ideas about the state the team is in, it will not give you the full picture. Of course, any such reports would need to be looked at with a skilled facilitator or a coach, and that might help. But then the questionnaire becomes obsolete - you can use the model itself to go through the issues the team is facing without having to fill in a questionnaire.

In either way, I really liked the model and I even used a modified version of it to run a 360 degree feedback session recently. It works really well with perfectionists – people who always think they can do better and focus on the weaknesses rather than their strengths.

I’ll definitely keep my eye on how CAPP develop this model and report because I see a very bright future for this.

Update: I filled in the questionnaire and got the report. While the report was very detailed and quite user-friendly (it was color-coded and used simple language), it was also quite vague and in some cases completely untrue for me. It heavily replied on the Barnum effect, which Darren Brown illustrated brilliantly in one of his experiments.

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