Posts Tagged ‘Capability Approach’

49er’s Head Coach, Jim Harbaugh, offered his assessment of 2nd round draft choice Colin Kaepernick’s ability to succeed at the professional level.  In reference to what qualities he looks for in a quarterback, he said that Kaepernick had the ability to “figure things out and think [his] way to success; think [his] way to winning.”  Harbaugh was also emphatic when he proudly highlighted Kaepernick’s equally unique and impressive NCAA record holding statistic of being the only player in NCAA history to ever have over ten thousand (10,000) yards passing and over four thousand (4000) yards rushing in a career.

Harbaugh also delivered a strong message of what he expects from every player on the roster.  In his mind, the bar has been set.  Some of the workmanlike tenets consisted of what Harbaugh considers as the “ability and liscence” to reach the highest capabilities in pursuit of success.  “Guys will run on their own gas… its about earning your contributions,” stated the coach as he further outlined the mind set that he expects everyone in the organization to move forward with.  And, with the players specifically in mind, he insisted, “nothing is anointed… everything is earned.”

Here is a link to the entire press conference introducing Kaepernick, containing extended question and answer with Coach Harbaugh, also including his take on Alex Smith’s role on the team.  At the 11:17 mark Harbaugh explains what he expects from any 49er on the roster:


In terms of playing to the capability approach, here is an excerpt from research in education:

Capability Approach (Sen, 1992) – Tripp, Rizzo, & Webbert (2007), “providing a strategy for creating a framework for long-term planning aimed at developing the maximum capability of each individual to pursue and achieve well-being (human right to pursue self-actualization).”

Here is the Wikipedia definition of the capability approach (

“The capability approach (also referred to as the capabilities approach) was initially conceived in the 1980s as an approach to welfare economics.[1] In this approach, Amartya Sen brought together a range of ideas that were hitherto excluded from (or inadequately formulated in) traditional approaches to the economics of welfare.

Initially Sen argued for five components in assessing capability:

  1. The importance of real freedoms in the assessment of a person’s advantage
  2. Individual differences in the ability to transform resources into valuable activities
  3. The multi-variate nature of activities giving rise to happiness
  4. A balance of materialistic and nonmaterialistic factors in evaluating human welfare
  5. Concern for the distribution of opportunities within society”

There is definitely correlation in Harbaugh’s thoughts and words between the capability approach seen in education and economics and the competitive environment in which he chooses to operate in – his realm.  Harbaugh seems to be scratching the surface in terms of capability.  Is this correlation a cause to Harbaugh’s desired affect?

Bill Walsh used to talk about the power of self-actualization, and he mentioned it in his pioneering book, Finding The Winning Edge.  In it, he emphasizes creating/facilitating an environment in which the people under his leadership were able to perform to their highest levels of human capability or reach their god given potential through pursuing a basic human right.  I highly recommend this book to any coach or manager that has entertained questions about leadership and success as well as anyone interested in learning more about running a professional football organization (nudge: current NFL ownership).

Overall, I like the outlook that Coach Harbaugh is bringing to the table.  He has a way of establishing a positive day-to-day mindset in the face of an uncertain economic climate – both macro (global), and micro (legal, business, professional), and getting those under his leadership to look unto themselves to find that which is within us all.  It always helps to stay upbeat, positive, and focused when you are attempting to lead an organization in “thinking its way to success.”