The zone of genius is an area where one’s strengths, talents, and skills intersect. The zone of genius was first described by author and psychologist Gay Hendricks in his 2010 book The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level.
Understanding the zone of genius
In the book, Hendricks described the zone of genius in the context of three other zones:
- The competence zone – where employees perform a task efficiently but whose output does not exceed the output of others in a similar role.
- The incompetence zone – where employee performance is substandard because they lack the required understanding or skills, and
- The excellence zone – where the employee has cultivated, established, and practiced a skill over time and, in general, is better at that skill than others.
The fourth zone, the zone of genius, can be best described as the place where one’s passions, strengths, skills, and natural talents meet.
This zone enables employees to work in a flow state, completely immersed in their work and able to effortlessly draw on their skills and experiences to achieve personal and organizational objectives.
The zone of genius is unique
Note that the zone is genius is unique to every individual.
Think of it as a one-of-a-kind quality that the employee utilizes to do something better than anyone else.
This may be difficult to discern since, for many individuals, their “genius” comes naturally and thus will not be considered especially unique or special.
Nevertheless, the employee who operates in their zone of genius feels energized about their life objectives.
The zone is one’s raison d’être, enabling them to start each day with a clear purpose and awareness of where they can add the most value or make the most impact.
How to discover your zone of genius
For those whose zone of genius is not immediately apparent amongst a list of skills or passions, it can be helpful to follow these steps:
- Find a quiet place to sit with pen and paper in hand.
- Then, reflect on some questions and write the answers on the paper. What would you do each day for free? What do you love about the work? What activities don’t feel like work when they are performed? What activities result in the most satisfaction?
- With a list of interests jotted down, combine them in different ways in a viable or personally meaningful way. Otherwise, the zone of genius can be found by combining interests with other traits such as one’s location, hobbies, skills, and work experience.
For those who suspect they know where their zone of genius lies, introspection is one way to be certain.
The individual should think of a recent instance where they were in flow state and pinpoint what they were feeling and why.
If details are not forthcoming, notes can be taken the next time they find themselves in such a state.
One’s ultimate purpose in life can also be found by further introspection around the events that shaped who they are today.
These events tend to be major challenges, obstacles, or transitions that have lasting impacts.
How can employees and organizations benefit from the zone of genius?
Once the zone of genius has been identified, the employee must make time to cultivate and integrate it into their daily routine.
The employee should, where possible, delegate tasks that fall under the other three zones to others who are more qualified or invested.
When more employees are working on tasks they find personally meaningful, motivation and productivity increase.
While work can never be 100% enjoyable, employees who see their roles as exciting or rewarding are more likely to stick around and create a desirable company culture that makes the organization more resilient.
To achieve this, employees must ultimately see their roles as an extension of themselves and not as simply a way to pay the bills.
- The zone of genius is an area where one’s strengths, talents, and skills intersect. It was first described by author and psychologist Gay Hendricks in 2010.
- Note that the zone is genius is unique to every individual. Think of it as a one-of-a-kind quality that the employee utilizes to do something better than anyone else.
- For those whose zone of genius is not immediately apparent, a healthy dose of introspection is necessary. Once the zone has been identified, however, employees and indeed organizations must integrate it into the workplace.