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Joe,

As I began to think of my retort to your last post, I realized how ridiculous it is that we are using the American Idol judges as an analogy for talent and behavior in a “normal” business situation. The criteria for assessing an American Idol judge’s effectiveness has very little in common with how we measure performance everyday in corporate America. American Idol is about driving viewership, so being candid (or crazy) can accomplish that goal.

I also think that while I started the conversation on the topic of behavior, you have taken it into the realm of talent–two very different things, in my opinion. Behaviors are about how we react to the world around us. Talent is about innate skills and abilities. I could hire a company full of untalented individuals who exhibit the behaviors I listed and have a failure of a work force (and vice versa). So, rather than continue to add to the confusion of this debate, I’d like to turn to some interesting questions that your last post raised in regards to talent.

  1. Does the concept of talent exist without context? If you are the only person in the room, you are the most talented singer in the room (even if you have what other’s would qualify as sub-par singing skill). This boils down to how we define talent. One definition of talent I found on dictionary.com is a “natural endowment or ability of a superior quality.” The use of the word “superior” implies comparison with others. So, I agree with you that the context you use has an enormous impact on how you judge an individual’s talent. However, I would challenge that you may not be able to make a judgement regarding talent without the benefit of context.
  2. Can talent be judged independently of the opinion and perception of others? You point out that my judgement of Simon Cowell’s talent (or behavior) is based on my own opinion and my perception of the talent of those around him. If I must take out my own reasoning related to making a judgement about Simon’s talent AND I cannot use context to judge his talent, how then am I to determine who is talented? This brings me to the big question.
  3. Is there such a thing as “absolute talent?” Are there abilities or endowments that are of as superior quality in every situation, regardless of our judgement of it? OR is talent by it’s nature relative and situational? When I am recruiting for an individual, I look for the right talent for the current situation and the likely future situation of the team. That talent is judged in large part through the lenses of the people closest to the situation.

Talent, like beauty, may lie in the eye of the beholder.

Your ball . . .

Jason

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