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Core Assumptions

Far too long have we treated one’s growth and impact as an external affair, driven by a textbook, teacher, or technology.

In such a view, the learner is assumed to be a passive recipient, unmotivated, or even recalcitrant. Instead, we see all people as longing for growth and impact, but for a number of reasons they fail to self-activate. This process, we argue, starts with connecting what is being learned to the achievement of meaningful outcomes in the world. When we look towards external motivators to fix the problem, we create short-term wins at best, often undermining appreciation for the use-value of what is being learned. Instead, we belive that connecting what is being learned to what one does with it, creates a more authentic and long-lasting incentive for learning.

The problem of self-activation, from this perspective, is not a motivation problem, but a “release” problem with most learners not appreciating or having investment in why they are learning and its real-world value.

Our work starts with the premise that people want to succeed, and if properly invested will often exceed our expectations. Further, the challenge in unlocking human potential is not teaching content, but inviting, enabling, and releasing the potential of each individual to do great things with the content that is being learned. That is, innovation does not live simply in the powerful ideas or designs, but is bound up in the foresight and integration process that each growee must engage to make that which is being learned meaningful.

Below we articulate four assumptions that drive our thinking: person as hero, learning as thriving, technology as amplifier, innovation as integration.

Person as Hero (not in deficit)

People inherently want to live well—even thrive; whether that means getting in shape, improving literacy, maintaining sobriety, managing spending, improving relationships, or shifting into a new career. In general, people long for growth and impact, and under the right conditions are able to accomplish great feats without anyone in charge or being required to do so. Humans are hard wired to do great things– to learn, to mentor, to create, to envision, to innovate—, and underachievement or non-learning, regardless of the situation, is not something people bring into the world. Unlocking human potential starts with connecting to individual passions and aspirational futures (invite), and through disciplined practice in a supportive context with powerful ideas (enable), should culminate in realized potential (release) (see Thrive Empowerment Diagram).


We need growth models that, at their core, are based on the assumption that everyone can and wants to do great things, and that learners come with untapped potential that needs to be invited, enabled, and released—not implanted.

Learning as Thriving (not content acquisition)

The term ‘thrive’ suggests that one is using that which is being learned to flourish within a number of situations, not simply remember or apply an idea in a testing context. It is about looking at learning as a means to being engaged in one’s life, envisioning desired future states, and doing the hard work to achieve them. Rather than privileging the core ideas being learned, a thrive empowerment model starts with the types of outcomes and impacts that the learning makes possible. In fact, it is the potential of realizing these possibilities that should drive learning forward. By ‘flipping learning on its head’ we move beyond the long-standing motivational quandary of ‘Why am I learning this?’ and expand the learner’s focus to ‘What possibilities do I want to pursue?’ ‘What do I need to know to realize this goal?’ and ‘who is going to help me succeed?’

The focus of learning and design is not to remember content or even understanding how it works, but instead involves being able to flourish in one’s life, realizing possibilities that connect to one’s goals and purpose.

Technology as Amplifier (not silver bullet)

While unlocking human potential is clearly a complex endeavor, achieving this goal at scale has been hampered by designs and thinking that operate under the wrong paradigm; treating innovations as a way to ‘fix’ people, and relying on uni-directional methods (lectures, online modules, repetitive games) for pushing content into a passive learner; thereby establishing restrictive pipelines and limiting filters on where value lives and how it grows.

Instead, we are seeing the emergence of “platform” technologies focused on (a) unlocking local potential, (b) providing connective tissue, and (c) making it easy for one person to champion the growth of another. The focus in these spaces is less about how great is the designer content, and more on how to allow the greatness of the users to shine through. In these platform models, technology is an amplifier, augmenting people’s natural drive to thrive in life.


The goal is not to build all the learning content, creating tight channels that all must traverse. Instead, the focus is to make it easy for anyone to connect into their untapped potential to do great things, and to help them easily engage with those ideas and individuals that will allow them to succeed.

Innovation as Integration (not as dissemination)

Ultimately, many designers have failed to recognize that the real innovator is the human spirit, and the role of the technology is to augment and ignite the untapped potential within each of us. While the designed innovations are a powerful part of the offering, ultimately it is the learner’s themselves who must do the meaningful work, with the most challenging innovation residing in the implementation process as a lived experience, not as a technological fix to be disseminated. The designed services need to become part of an empowered ecosystem where they can amplify existing capabilities by remaining responsive to local needs and strengths. It is those individuals at the implementation sites who effectively become the true innovators, responsible for those on-the-ground adaptations and personal growth necessary for any designed services to bring about transformative impact.

Innovation is less a property of some design, and more the realization of a possibility taken up by an individual within a supportive ecosystem who has the foresight to imagine possible local expressions and who is supported to integrate these ideas towards their successful release.