October 24th, 2011
1971 called. It wants its conversation back.
All this talk about “talent.” Finding it, measuring it, acquiring it, managing it, yada, yada, yada.
Talent is becoming irrelevant.
Okay, I got carried away…it’s not irrelevant. But it is much less relevant than it used to be.
For starters, I do not think that our approach to individual talent is nearly as scientific as we like to think it is. I do not think that most organizations are actually very good at knowing what kind of “talent” they actually need, and I do not think they are very good at finding it or measuring or keeping it or developing it. In my experience, even the language and logic around competencies, talent, ability and skills is all very jumbled and sloppy. On top of that there is little understanding of human decision making, but I digress…
Much more importantly, the target has moved.
The reason that what we refer to as “talent” is increasingly irrelevant is because less work is being done by individuals and more work is being done by groups. Nobel prizes are increasingly awarded to multiple individuals, research papers increasingly cite numerous individuals and inside our organizations more projects and objectives are anchored to groups of people. Individual ability / competence / talent is still a variable in that equation, but it is just one of many. Putting a group of talented individuals at a table together does not make a talented group.
There is no shortage of examples in human history of groups of really smart, intelligent, competent, individuals that made really bad decisions and left ruin in their wake.
Relational skills, communication skills, empathy, flexibility…all of these are part of the equation as well.
And so is diversity.
Very likely our three most wasted assets inside the organization are knowledge, perspectives and heuristics…the stuff inside a persons brain, the mash up of their identity and experience.
When you bring a group together to do serious work, the bigger your aggregate collection of knowledge, perspectives and heuristics is, the more likely you are to have access to the tools necessary to generate an optimal result and the less likely you are to be limited and compromised by shared blind spots.
The more diverse that group of people are, the larger the mental toolbox that they have access to…and the more difficult it becomes for them to work together and even make sense if each other. Finding the magical mix is part of the art of leadership.
In your organization do you have any intentional practices in place to bring together diverse teams to solve problems, generate solutions and make decisions?
In your organization do you have any intentional practices in place to make sure that those diverse teams are candidly and honestly sharing that difference and handling the tension of difference in a healthy and functional way?
Be good to each other.