In many high complexity systems (cells, organisms, institutions, societies, economies, etc.), it is unclear which components should be regulated to affect overall performance. To identify and prioritize molecular targets which impact cellular phenotypes, we have developed a selection procedure ( SPI -single promoting/inhibiting target identification) which monitors the abundance of ectopic cDNAs. We have used this approach to identify growth regulators. For this purpose, complex pools of S. cerevisiae cDNA transformants were established and we quantitated the evolution of the spectrum of cDNAs which was initially present. These data emphasized the importance of translation initiation and ER-Golgi traffic for growth. SPI provides functional insight into the stability of cellular phenotypes under circumstances in which established genetic approaches cannot be implemented. It provides a functional synthetic genetic signature for each state of the cell (i.e. genotype and environment) by surveying complex genetic libraries, and does not require specialized arrays of cDNAs/shRNAs, deletion strains, direct assessment of clonal growth or even a conditional phenotype. Moreover, it establishes a hierarchy of importance of those targets which can contribute, either positively or negatively, to modify the prevailing phenotype. Extensions of these proof-of-principle experiments to other cell types should provide a novel and powerful approach to analyze multiple aspects of the basic biology of yeast and animal cells as well as clinically-relevant issues.