Talent Anarchy. Feels about right. I, like you, feel like the idea of talent needs an overhaul. I accept your challenge. The world of talent is rapidly falling into anarchy as the world of work transforms before our eyes. Understanding talent has probably never been more important and yet we seem less clear than ever about what it really it and what we should do with it.
Talent does seem to be in the category of love and truth as a word the almost seems to defy definition. Talent has become like a lot of the best four let swear words you are so fond of. A great swear word can be used in a lot of different ways to describe a lot of different things. Talent gets used to describe a whole person or an attribute of the person. We acquire it, management, develop it, scout it, and even hoard it. Everyone seems to agree that it’s a good thing, but no one seems to be on the same page in terms of what it actually is.
At the risk of you skewering me for it, I’m going to propose a definition of talent that I use:
Talent is the potential to develop a remarkable ability.
As an example, I may have a talent for public speaking. That probably means that I can communicate well or I have a powerful voice, or that I don’t get nervous in front of crowds—or a combination of all of these things. My talent for public speaking isn’t worth a whole lot until it is set free through development and intentional effort to turn that talent into an exceptional ability. It’s only once I manifest my talent and become remarkable as a public speaker by developing the necessary skills does it become truly valuable.
I’m curious how you feel about this definition. It doesn’t really make it much easier to measure it or recognize it, but instead it informs on how we should approach and think about it. Under this definition of talent, organizations who claim to be about talent would have to create environments and cultures that help people first discover their talents and then clear a path for each person to manifest those talents within this day to day thing we call work. These same organizations would have to be committed to leaving behind the idea of making people more competent (root word of competencies) and instead sell out to helping people become remarkable in their own individual ways.
How do we do this? That’s another series of posts that we can dig into. For now, I’m curious how you feel about this definition of talent. I’m going to put on my helmet and my bullet proof vest to await your response.