The Zone of Genius: Is your L&D Populating It?

ICOG - 25-Aug-2021

The zone of genius- the zone where individuals don’t just contribute to the organization but thrive and innovate. Matching individuals to the right jobs has been an age-old problem. A larger problem, though, that companies face today is that of ensuring that employees who stay or come in contribute and thrive in their roles.

So the job of an HR manager is not just to populate positions within the organization but to ensure that the zone of genius is achieved for each individual.

Let’s begin this conversation by defining the zone of genius and then talking about how it affects an organization from various perspectives.

What is the Zone of Genius?

The Zone of Genius concept comes from a book, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, who identified four functional zones-

  1. The zone of incompetence - In this zone, a person is engaged in a role they are not inherently good at. When this occurs in an organization, the person must be trained or redistributed in the organization.

  1. The zone of competence - In this zone, a person is engaged in a role they are competent at but may not be the best at. There may be someone else in the company better suited for their role. While this person might better contribute to something else.

  1. The zone of excellence - In this zone, a person is engaged in a role they are excellent at. Typically, they have practiced and trained for this position over a period. However, this set of activities doesn’t give them energy and may leave them burnt out after a while.

  1. The zone of genius - In this zone, a person is capitalizing on their innate natural capabilities rather than learned skills. This is the zone that gets you in the “flow state” where when you’re engaged in this activity, time flies by and you feel a strong sense of purpose.

A person in their zone of genius finds continuous inspiration to go on delivering unique and standout work that clearly differentiates and positions them for success.

While persons in their zone of excellence may also look successful on the outside, they don’t find fulfillment and satisfaction in what they do.

How to Identify Your Zone of Genius as an Individual?

As an individual, ask yourself this- ‘what comes to me effortlessly?’ What am I able to create and engage in without much thought and effort?

You may notice that your zone of genius may not overlap with your passions and may not even get you excited and interested. It may be that thing that comes so naturally to you that others say you’re gifted at it, but you never paid much attention to it.

You will need to practice this skill consistently to build your edge in order to capitalize on your zone of genius.

How to Identify your Zone(s) of Genius as an Organization?

It can be hard to identify the zones of genius of your employees considering the scale of an organization. If you’re a small business with let’s say 10 employees, the task is still doable for you.

Individually engage with each employee and make sure you have your team working in their zones of genius.

However, with organizations with 500 and more employees, there has to be another way.

The solution starts with your L&D platform. Businesses employ learning and development initiatives for either of two purposes-

  1. To check off mandatory training on the list to ensure compliance and regulations

  2. To build competencies that support organizational growth and evolution

In order to achieve the former, all you need to do is make sure all your employees watch compliance training modules and pass the assessments.

However, for the latter, you need to ensure that your employees are not just contributing excellence to the organization but capitalizing on their genius.

For an organization wanting to gain an edge in the market, prepare for an internal transformation or bring a disruption in the industry, it’s vital that their employees be ready and competent for it.

How your L&D Platform Can Help Populate the Zones of Genius

Are you struggling to make learning meaningful and impactful at your organization with a small team and a tiny budget? One way to make L&D efficient and empowered at your organization is to invest in the right L&D platform.

An L&D enabling platform can help you identify and maximize the zones of genius in your organization in the following ways:

  • Personalization of Learning - When learning is personalized for each individual and a platform accommodates not just mandated-by-the-org learning but also aspirational learning, employees venture into their zones of genius. With a personalized learning opportunity, your employees may feel empowered to fan out their competencies and explore other interests that facilitate their job or enhance it. This creates a balance between what you need as an organization to achieve goals and what an individual needs to progress in their career and explore.

  • Data and Insights - All the opportunity to learn might go in vain if you, as an L&D leader, have no insight into what the organization is learning and excelling in. Powerful insights about competencies in each business unit, department, team and location can tell you who the top performers are, what the top competencies are, and how you as an organization can get intentional about competency building. All of this provides managers tools to work with to discover tacit talent in their teams to either optimize or redistribute based on their zone of genius.

  • Peer-led Learning - Peer-led learning keeps employees engaged and the learning fun and interactive. Learning is treated as a social sport, meaning peers learn from each other, view recommended and taken courses of their teams and find their competency standing in their team and organization. Through discussions and collaboration around learning, people are more likely to discover their own zones of genius and even move into a different department after showing their competencies in relevant functional, behavioral and technical skills.

  • Micro-learning - Micro-learning allows individuals to learn in the flow of work, which again contributes to creating an atmosphere of continuous upskilling. The more often employees learn and apply their knowledge, the more likely they are to retain their knowledge and practice it- yielding benefits for the organization as well as the individual. Micro-learning ensures that an individual’s zone of genius can be optimized and honed through consumable and actionable training content.

  • Learning Experiences - Finally, an overall outstanding learning experience can ensure that employees learn proactively, build their career paths, branch out in their zones of genius or keep evolving in their chosen career. The quality of a learning experience determines whether or not the organization will be able to optimize its talent by identifying and maximizing its people’s zones of genius.

If your L&D efforts are not optimizing and nudging your employees into their zones of genius, they’re probably turning them away.

An organization of such nature will struggle to evolve, stand out and take care of its talent (working outside the zone of genius creates burnout, remember?).

ICOG offers a unique opportunity for organizations to find and hone their employees’ zones of genius. Book your personalized demo today!


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