HiPo’s are 90% more valuable to organizations than their peers, yet a new study from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) shows that 73% of development programs fail. To engage and retain HiPo’s, we need to involve them in the right high-risk, high-reward development opportunities.

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) offers powerful insights that ensure the right mix of ingredients in the development of these rising leaders. First, CCL distinguishes between horizontal development of information, skills and competencies, and vertical development of a more expansive way of thinking. In horizontal development, we add more water to a glass, whereas in vertical development, we increase the size of the glass –tantamount to a mindset shift for individual leaders.

The stages of vertical development are Expert, Achiever and Catalyst. To support unforeseen future changes, rising leaders must grow from Experts to Catalysts who collaborate, transcending uncertainty and ambiguity. Many say identification of talent is key and focusing on ability, aspiration and commitment leads to success, but we also advocate for vertical stage development, effective before or after implementation of HiPo development programs.

According to CCL, three conditions support vertical development: creating heat, colliding perspectives and elevated sensemaking. In the remainder of this article, let’s focus on raising the heat, an essential component in growing and developing rising talent.


So how do you turn up the heat?

To find an answer, CCL interviewed 30 experts. Raising the heat was defined as helping a participant face a complex situation that disrupts and disorients his or her habitual way of thinking, discovering that his or her way of making sense of the world may be inadequate, and opening the participant up to new or better ways to make sense of the challenge. To achieve this condition, the panel found that manufacturing heat in the classroom was sometimes necessary.

Most HiPo programs have too much comfort and not enough heat. The Case-in-Point method popularized by Ronald Heifetz at Harvard, provides an example of turning up the heat. Case-in-Point puts smart, task-focused leaders in a workshop with no prescribed goal, no structure, and no authority figure to tell them what to do —“You are the leaders, begin.” Chaos ensues as participants realize that to make sense of their situation, they must speak up, find partners, and work through conflicting agendas in the room. Leaders learn how to lead when no one has to follow.

With Case-in-Point, the extraction of the learning is even more powerful than the exposure to the experience, increasing participants’ ability to apply the learning. According to CEB, combining a high-quality learning experience in