This Talent Thing (aka Simon – Part 6)



I think that American Idol example is a perfect framework for examining the ideas of talent and behavior, but we can move on from that.

I do not believe that I changed the topic, I believe I was making a point that applied to both talent and behavior (and competency, performance, etc.).

And my point (which you are now also making through your questions) is this…

The idea that “talent” (or behavior, competency, performance, ability, etc.) is some tangible, measurable scientific thing is horribly, horribly flawed. We all talk about “talent” like it is a gallon of milk…we all know what it is, we are all talking about the same thing and we can measure it with great precision.

That is all bullshit.

This is the same kind of fantasy that we tell ourselves and each other with all of our “best practices” lies. We have a very real habit of taking something very complex and denying its complexity. We have a very real habit of taking something interdependent and ignoring its interdependence. We have a very real habit of taking things that are correlated and assigning causality. We have a very real habit of applying static, finite principles to messy, complex, unpredictable, nonlinear, beautifully flawed human beings, their relationships, interactions and social dynamics.

It does not change the fact that we need to talk about and think about and attempt to quantify talent, but we are being dishonest with ourselves and each other when we talk about talent like it is a gallon of milk. It’s not.

My understanding of, expectations of, interpretations of talent are as much about me and as much about the context as they are about the idea of “talent.”

When we convince ourselves that we have perfect understanding of and perfect measure of something like “talent” we set ourselves up for a dysfunction, and we make it harder to bring real value into the organization…because when we build a barb wire fence around what “talent” is, we are locking a lot of stuff out…and that stuff that we are locking out is also as much about me and about context as it is about anything.


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