Ability: The Vital Asset

Ability: The Vital Asset
Presented at
The International Society for Performance Improvement
Annual Conference
April, 2002
Roger E. Boswarva

In order to improve performance, one must first improve the ability or abilities employed in that performance. One must improve the abilities as to facility, power, accuracy and ease of application.

As an example, take selling. A test group of already trained, experienced salesmen improved performance by 163.34% in six weeks, not by being trained again in selling techniques, but by having the salesmen address and enhance the intrinsic abilities we each have and use in the communication process as employed in the selling action.

See the report on this success from The International Life Insurance Company in our Benefits page.

Heretofore, the subject of the core abilities we each have and use on our jobs, or in our other pursuits, and their address for improvement as to facility, power, accuracy and ease of application, is not one that has been much addressed. Indeed, it is an area that has been omitted from most Human Performance Technology endeavors.

An interview with Professor Martin E.P. Seligman, the new president of the American Psychological Association, in the April 28, 1998, edition of The New York Times, Science News Section, sheds light on this. The article begins:

 “Psychologists rarely think much about what makes people happy. They focus on what makes them sad, on what makes them anxious. That is why psychology journals have published 45,000 articles in the last 30 years on depression, but only 400 on joy.  . . .”

“It was not always like that. When psychology began developing as a profession, it had three goals: to identify genius, to heal the sick and to help people live better, happier lives. Over the last half century, however, it has focused almost entirely on pathology, taking the science of medicine, itself structured around disease, as its model.  . . .”

“That is an imbalance, says Martin E.P. Seligman, the new president of the American Psychological Association, and one that he is determined to change. Dr. Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania . . . has a strategy for reforming a profession he thinks has gone awry.  . . .”

“Psychology, he said, has been negative ‘essentially for 100 years’. Theories have generally focused on damage, as have techniques for intervention. Social science has believed negative things were authentic and strengths were coping mechanisms, he said.  . . .”

“But what he sees in his (own) children are ‘pure, unadulterated strengths’ that are not compensations for trauma, but intrinsic.” Seligman says “I find myself beginning to believe psychology needs to ask, What are the virtues? We need to delineate them, assess them, ask causal questions. What are the interactions? How does it grow? Let’s talk of growth and questions of strength. . . Rather than spending $10 million on, say, phobias and fears, he says, study courage.”

The point raised by Dr. Seligman is a very important one, though, perhaps, belatedly raised as it is one that was addressed by Alan C. Walter and myself more than forty years ago, and is now very much resolved.

Alan Walter was a champion athlete at the time, an Australian Rules football star. I was a champion swimmer, having been involved in the early 1950’s research carried out by the great Forbes Carlisle and coached by him prior to the 1956 Olympic Games.

While our research was initially applied to improving athletic performance, we also delved into the following:

a) The delineation of what intrinsic abilities, capacities and virtues are native to us.

b) The developing of methods to exercise or process these abilities, capacities and virtues so as to increase their facility of use, and enhance and increase their power and accuracy in application.

c) The application of this knowledge across the broader spectrum of human activities such as business, relationships, and the everyday life of individuals.

I first met Alan Walter in 1962 while I, as a champion swimmer, was researching these same issues as he was. In 1994, I saw Walter had made some definitive breakthroughs in this area and I embraced his work, some of which I am now presenting to you.

An integral part of Walter’s work are the profile charts for the Life Analysis, and also the Skills Analysis. These profiles measure and display how the client has currently created his capacity for success in life (the Life Analysis) and how he has created his skills set (the Skills Analysis). One could say the Life Analysis Profile measures the component aspects and abilities of your Beingness — the way you have created the  ‘you’ to BE. The Skills Analysis Profile measures the various aspects of how you have created your ability to DO.



The profiles also show an individual where ‘up’ is, and are used to measure before and after improvements following processing of abilities for their upgrading.

More importantly, these charts delineate the spectrum of Levels of Existence, the range of moods or emotions in which an individual can operate on various subjects, and they express the state of a series of critical abilities and capacities as compared to the individual’s own ideal and true potential.

As noted, in the lower part of the graphs, colored as the Red Zone, ability is severely impaired and often used negatively against self and the environment. Success potential is poor to routine failure.

In the Yellow Zone, the individual’s success potential ranges from doubtful up through fair to good.

In the Green Zone, the individual’s success potential and powers of operation are very good ranging up to excellent.

We will not deal with the full subject of what these charts contain today, as that is a vast subject, and is fully covered in Alan C. Walter’s two-volume masterwork,  The Zones of Life (Wisdom Publishing, Route 1, Box 134, Saint Jo TX 76265 or from www.Knowledgism.com or www.WisdomPublishing.com). We will restrict ourselves to an introductory look at the innate abilities and powers we each have that are noted across the top of each of these profile charts. For it is these individual abilities and powers that can be measured, addressed with processes and improved.

The abilities shown across the top of the Life Analysis Graph are:

Ability to Know —  Ethics —  Utilization of Power —  Size of Games —  Self —  Interface

The abilities shown across the top of the Skills Analysis Graph are:

Communication —  Empathy —  Action —  Effectiveness —  Confidence Level —  Accomplishment

In terms of everyday life and living, ABILITY TO KNOW is expressed as the ability to learn; the ability to maintain a dynamic presence and to fully perceive and comprehend.

The ability to learn is an ability we are born with. Young children do it naturally — thus, the big question is, what gets in its way!

As it happens, the answers to this question have also been found and are covered in the  “How to Learn” materials of both Ability Consultants, Inc., (www.abilityconsultants.com)  which reveal the several  “barriers to comprehension” that prevent learning and how to successfully remove them. (A live demonstration of this was given regarding one barrier to comprehension in learning by the author as part of his presentation at the 2002 Annual ISPI Conference and Expo. It proved to be a revelation to attendees to experience the “mind-fog” and mental blankness occasioned by the exercise — which they were happy to have relieved by a follow-on action.)

ETHICS is expressed as the ability to evaluate relative importances and to conceive of good application of that which is known or been learned. This is not just an issue of the philosophical principles of right or wrong conduct, but one of hard-nosed ability to conduct business or one’s affairs in life and to be both viable and moving forward with success. ETHICS is thus also the issue of deciding how and where to use one’s knowledge or what has been learned, as well as the powers associated with that knowledge.

Let’s look at some examples.

The Xerox Corporation invented not only the computer mouse and pull-down menus, but the personal computer and the laser printer; yet they failed to conceive of proper orders of importance and correct application of what they had learned. Xerox was a client of mine in London and, in 1974, I was told by one of its senior executives that the future of the company would be in small personal computers for business and home. But history shows that did not happen. And that failure by the Xerox Corporation to conceive of a proper application for what it had learned has cost it untold billions of dollars.

Bridgestone/Firestone Tires and Ford Motor Company in their recent use of what they had learned about their tire failures is an example of both unethical and bad use of knowledge. The cost of that misuse of knowledge is catastrophic to Bridgestone, and huge for Ford. Mike Milkin and Drexal, Burnham, Lambert are another example of misapplication of knowledge; it cost them their business. As it did Enron.

Examples of good and profitable application of knowledge or of what has been learned are Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell with their many applications of scientific knowledge. Also Johnson & Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol scare.

We have also developed the procedures and training techniques needed to enhance and develop an individual’s ability to operate with high ethical competence and correctly evaluate importances and conceive of optimum applications of knowledge.

You will notice now that these abilities expressed across the top of these two profile charts lead one to the other across each chart and the ones to the right depend for their performance upon the quality of the ability and application of the preceding one to the left.

Next in sequence is UTILIZATION OF POWER.

Correctly determining how and where to apply one’s knowledge or invest one’s powers or energy and resources, apart from being a matter of ethical decision, results in maximum potential for use of powers.

In the corporate sense one would view the “power” it has to utilize as being it’s resources of capital, manpower, marketing and production capacities and such.

You will likely have had experience, in yourself or seen it in others, of the negative impact on your ability to proceed toward the attainment of objectives when there has been an incorrect determination of how and where to apply knowledge or invest energy or power. The abilities affected are: the capacity to act, and the ability to use and/or direct power.

I have long observed, for example, why elite athletes often fail at the critical moment.  I saw it with the golfer Greg Norman.  For me, it was an unforgettable example of how a champion athlete’s thinking can sabotage his power.

It was in the 1986 US Masters Tournament.  this below from wikipedia:

“Norman buried the birdie putt, his fourth straight, to tie for the lead. Norman hit a perfect drive on 18, needing birdie for his first major championship. However, Norman pushed his approach shot into the gallery and missed his 15-foot (4.6 m) par putt. Nicklaus had stormed back, shooting 30 on the back 9, to win his sixth Masters title and became the oldest Masters champion at age 46.”

I actually saw Greg Norman freezing up and resisting what he did not want to have happen on that approach shot . . . and I knew the moment I saw that he would screw it up.

It was a case of creating what he did not want in order to resist it.

There are several aspects regards failure. One’s energy or power can be wasted, or collides with barriers, impediments or dispersal when the target or the methods of the action are inappropriate or incorrect. Frustration can result and unwillingness to further act can set in.

At worst, if the actions are decidedly unethical and need be hidden, then the power utilization is inverted and the activity stays small or contracts and can vanish (as is seen in unethical business activity that causes bankruptcy). Individuals suffer this as well. Unethical conduct or unethical use of power leads the individual to having to stay hidden as the source of that action, with the result that the individual’s powers, size or sphere of influence and size of game diminish.

Conversely, where the use of knowledge is wise and beneficial for all, there is great gusto in the use of one’s energy towards attaining the objectives and much contribution to the endeavor by others, including customers. And this leads to a large and expanding game.

Procedures have long been developed and is use by us for the restoration and enhancement of the multi-faceted ability to utilize power — multi-faceted because it deals with the aspects of willingness and ability to direct one’s own individual energy and power, as well the power vested in one due to acquisition of knowledge or appointment to position.

The next area of ability is SIZE OF GAMES.

As noted above, each succeeding ability depends upon the quality and application of the preceding abilities in the sequence. Thus the SIZE OF GAME is influenced by the UTILIZATION OF POWER ability, the ETHICS elements of ability before that, and the all important ABILITY TO KNOW at the head of the column.

SIZE OF GAMES is expressed as responsibility level: the willingness and ability to envision and embrace or not a large scope of responsibility, and the ability to effectively manage large dreams and aspirations.

Where utilization of power is small, or willingness to be responsible is low, the individual’s SIZE OF GAMES will be small. And the individual will automatically avoid or withhold himself from big, winning games. Where the ability to use power is free and able, and willingness to be responsible is vast, the SIZE OF GAME and capacity for winning are both enormous.

Techniques have long been in use for the restoration and enhancement of this particular facet of ability.

The SELF you create as your Beingness: your who, what and how you operate, is the result of the application of all the foregoing abilities.

The competence with which you operate as the Beingness known as you is expressed in various ways, such as:

a) Certainty of Self — the unable are not very certain of themselves, their knowledge, powers or what they do; the very unable are not only not sure of who they are but often can be quite hallucinary about who they are, their capabilities and what they actually do; while the able know who they are, what they know, what their capabilities and their actual actions are with increasing degrees of accuracy and certainty.

b) Ability to be Aware of Own Cause — the very unable are generally not very aware that they are actually causing, and nor are they aware of the actual effects they are producing as outcomes. Often the unable will deny that they have produced as they have. The very able, on the other hand, choose to cause as they do with deliberate and knowing intent for effective outcomes of which they are proud to be responsible.

c) Ability to Act As Self — the unable either act irresponsibly and often with unawareness, or want to follow or copy and be as others. You will have seen this with some children, they copy and act as some other person who is in the child’s view more dominant or successful than they are. The able person, being certain of self, certain of what he knows, and choosing to act responsibly with care for others, naturally leads or influences in any group he is a part of. The able person exhibits an aura of presence which observably goes into action when he decides, whereas the unable person can be observed to be dispersed, not as spiritually or mentally present (hence the expression: “not there”), and is vague or chaotic in his action.

A vast array of processes and training materials have been devised and are available as part of this subject of development of the SELF factor and related abilities, and have been in successful use for more than two decades.

The final and composite ability factor measured on the Life Analysis Profile is INTERFACE.

There are two aspects to this. One relates to the interfacing and relative harmony with which the composite factors of the individual’s Being work together toward the successful attainment of the being’s dreams and aspirations. In the areas of your life where you are relatively unable you are likely to be aware that there is some internal conflict. In the areas of your life where you know you are very competent, you will be aware of having harmony of abilities and faculties, and tremendous power and facility in directing and using your life-force to attain the results you want. The unable have  “mind chaos”; the able have certainty of decision and direction.

The other aspect of INTERFACE relates to how the individual works with or against his environment and others. The reason one creates the Beingness one does, is to play a game with others in an environment. Thus an important aspect of INTERFACE is how that Beingness known as ‘you’ relates and interfaces with others and the game of life. This is expressed, for example, by the ability to exchange honorably, and the ability to give and take with harmony and understanding. If you look at the folk around you in everyday life, you see this often expressed in terms of ‘working with’ or ‘being in opposition’. Some folk naturally are in harmony and work with their fellows, while others are secretly or overtly constantly acting as opponents to and in conflict with others.

All of these conditions, abilities and faculties can be improved and upgraded with the processes and techniques now available. And it is this action that can and should be taken if we are to accomplish true performance improvement in the areas we address.

As with the Life Analysis Profile, the abilities shown across the top of the Skills Analysis Profile relate one to the other to comprise the individual’s level of ACCOMPLISHMENT versus FAILURE.

Today, we will only deal with the first of the skill related abilities on the left, COMMUNICATION, as it is a large subject.

There are two aspects to this column and its affect upon the rest of the skills related abilities that result in ACCOMPLISHMENT versus FAILURE. One aspect relates to the ability to be in communication with one’s environment and others and to perceive and inflow information or knowledge. The other relates to the ability to outflow and communicate to others successfully.

Successful COMMUNICATION has an exact formula or anatomy and comprises a number of abilities, each of which need be ably executed if communication is to succeed.

An exact statement of COMMUNICATION expressing its anatomy and formula is:

Effective Communication is the action of emanating and projecting from an originator a particle, object, idea, thought, envisioned image or concept across space to a receiver with the intention of affecting at the manifestation/receipt point an exact sameness (holographic reproduction) with full understanding of that which was projected from the originator. It requires presence, directed awareness, intention and purpose, control of the projection, responsibility for reception, permeated perception and receipt of exact sameness with complete understanding, for communication to fully succeed.

Two-way communication simply requires the roles be reversed between sender and receiver, from outflow to inflow.

As you will observe, this involves a number of abilities and powers be expertly used if one is to succeed, such as:

Ability to maintain dynamic presence

Ability to direct awareness (focus attention)


The exercise of volition and choice

Control of mood parity (emotional relationship)

Ability to exactly envision the concept to be transfered

Ability to intend

Ability to project or emanate

Control of the projection

Responsibility for receipt and understanding

Ability to holographically reproduce exactly that which emanated from sender.

Training techniques and other procedures have been in successful use for several decades that address and enhance each of these skills and abilities. Indeed, it was these procedures I used in 1968 to achieve the astounding result at The International Life Insurance Company in London, UK. (Audience members participated in samples of these processes at part of this presentation.)

This is the opportunity we now have as Human Performance Technologists and Performance Improvement Specialists — the ability to address a correctly delineated spectrum of innate abilities and capacities with proven procedures that improve the facility, accuracy and power of use of those abilities and capacities.

I think you will agree, as those who are already using these materials know, this gives us an exciting future to our profession.

Roger E. Boswarva, Chairman and Founding Partner of Ability Consultants, Inc. and Management Science Associates, is a management scientist of more than forty years experience in corporate, executive, and champion athlete performance improvement and a former Australian swimming champion. As a Fellow of the British Institute of Management he conducted management training and led seminars and symposia on executive and corporate performance for both the BIM and the Management Center Europe based in Brussels. His An Analytical Survey of Industrial Relations was published in 1980 by International Management Services, A.G.

Roger E. Boswarva
Founding Partner
Ability Consultants, Inc.
162 west 13th Street
Suite 1
New York NY 10011
(212) 924-2619

Roger E. Boswarva


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