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Joe,

I think we might be getting a little wrapped up in semantics here.  But, since that seems to be where we need to get some clarity, I’ll try to push through to see if we can get more specific.

I still like my definition of talent: the potential to develop a remarkable ability.  The more I live with this definition, the more I like it.  The reason it’s not just potential is that potential can come in lots of flavors (i.e. I can have the potential to be a massive failure, or the likely potential to be average–these are not the same as what I mean when I say talent).  A few other things about talent my framework for talent:

  • Talent is individual.  It exists within individual people.
  • The word remarkable is important.  If you have the potential to be average at something, that’s not talent.  We are talking about the ability to be better than most in a particular area.  This potential to be remarkable is what makes talent special and important.
  • Talent in and of itself doesn’t do anything, it’s just the way we describe one’s potential to be remarkable.  The work for individuals and talent professionals is to manifest talent and set it free as remarkable abilities.  It is to live up to the potential of one’s talents.
  • The specific value of a particular talent is situational (being a poet within a accounting firm) but that doesn’t mean its not a talent if it doesn’t create value in a specific situation.
  • Use of the word “talented” generally points towards someone who has manifested some of their talents and are showing their remarkable abilities.  A talented singer as an example is someone who either naturally sings really well or has worked hard to turn their talent for singing into a finely honed skill that we can recognize when we hear the person sing.

I don’t disagree with you about the importance of the stuff that happens between people through collaboration and social connection.  But, by my definition, that’s not talent.  When many organizations talk about talent management and organizational development or just plain human resources and team building, this “betweenness” is a very big part of the conversation.  I think it’s true that certain individual talents may only manifest fully in a group setting (talent for communication can only manifest with others due to the nature of the talent) but that talent still resides in the invidual, not the group.

There are other words that represent the between stuff: innovation, social capital, and performance are a few.  These are intertwined with talent but they are not talent when you talk about them as the product of a group.

I think where we get hung up in all of this is that organizations use broad sweeping terms like “Talent Management” to represent all of the things I outlined above.  At an organizational level, Talent Management can’t be only about the talent of the individual because the value of talent is situational.  Talent management should be about first understanding and identifying individual’s talents, then placing those individuals in situations where they can manifest their talent together with others where the combination of those manifested talents will create amazing results.  To do that effectively, you have to not only understand individual talent, but you must also understand how diversity, creativity, friendship, culture, communication, and leadership work.  Talent is really the raw materials that fuel the fire of organizational performance.  It’s what you do with and around talent that makes all the difference.

Not sure if this will help us move forward on this discuss or set us back.  Your ball.

Jason

 

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