Talent management and personal growth are hot topics in today’s organizations. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion around what “talent” and “personal growth” actually are.
Personal growth is often mistaken for “learning” in general, while talent is often mistaken for the “absolute strength” of performing a skill. While both interpretations are true, they re only half of the whole truth. Learning new things is generally helpful for intellectual growth. However, if learning is only the accumulation of additional isolated knowledge and not its actual application for real world problems, it is not personal growth.
We offer a brand new and fresh perspective on talent and personal growth to help you understand the whole picture and its consequences for you individually and your whole organization.
Talented employees are highly adaptable and are able to transfer knowledge from one area of expertise to another.
Personal growth is highly dependent on the ability of asking the right questions to learn what you don’t know, instead of learning the same things just in a different color. We consider personal growth the integration of islands of knowledge, emotions and actions, to learn what you don’t know, that you know.
The funny part is, that you and your organization already have all the talent, skills and abilities you need to be successful, you just don’t know, that you know, because this knowledge is not integrated.
Talent identification inside your organization
Current organizations still heavily rely on yearly performance evaluations to identify talent within their organization. While this practice works in high performing organizations like strategy consultancies, it does not work in “normal” work environments for several reasons which recently have gotten a lot of media attention. Companies like Yahoo are still using it, companies like Microsoft have abandoned this approach, and start ups in silicon value already laugh about it, due to its uselessness in identifying talent and its negative impact on organizational culture.
According to Pine & Gilmore (The experience economy), life skills are in constant change, and if we do not constantly individualize our skills, we get commoditized. In addition, the highest economical value is derived from products or services that not only provide a great customer experience, but actually transform peoples lives sustainable. If we want to hire the people who transform others, we need people who can transform themselves, because these are the people who don’t only like the word transformation, but actually live it.
The 5 levels of talent
Despite the fact that every department and individual employee believes that they are unique and their skill-set very special and important, the truth of the matter is that employees are more similar than different in terms of their actual work, and most work will be automatized in the near future. In fact, most work today is only payed work, because some work processes are not yet integrated and need to be manually transformed from one into some other system or format. Simple pattern recognition will be done by software in the future, as more and more jobs become obsolete, because more and more processes are being integrated by information technology.
We propose a different approach to talent spotting in your organization that is based on two aspects:
- the value talent creates for the organization
- the level of complexity the solutions generated have
This approach requires a fundamentally different way of thinking about employees and learning. This approach assumes that engaged employees get bored with a task after they completed the task about three times. After the third time, the engaged employee starts wondering if there is no easier way to do a task than the way one was told. The creative mind always tries to find easier ways of doing the same, so the next level of evolution is to use tools, or a template. Using templates already saves a lot of time and energy. Most employees do not progress beyond this state in their lifetime. This is the simplest form of pattern recognition. Recognizing a problem and using the right template to solve it.
The engaged creative mind however is not satisfied with using templates, because templates only work in maximum 80% of the cases. In one of the remaining 20% of the cases, the employee asks his superior to provide a template that also works for the other cases, the exceptions. Edge cases are the justification of hierarchical structures to have hierarchies in the first place. With the internet however, all templates ever needed to solve any problem are not at the disposal of every employee, which makes managers obsolete, in addition to other reasons not mentioned her.
The next level of knowledge worker evolution is always interested to find better or build own templates. Applying templates and building templates is unfortunately not funny for a long time, in addition, templates can not fix more complex problem situations. This is the level of the heroes, they are responsible for 15 % of the tricky day to day problems in an organization. The talent displayed here is integration and differentiation.
To solve problems more complex, frameworks of reference need to be modified. Modifying frameworks is the same as modifying business models and belong to the strategic skills. This is the level of the rockstars in your company. They spot trends and customize frameworks for your organization. Note, that no novel contribution to humanity has been made up to this point. The talent displayed here is to recognize pattern, and adapt conditions by integrating and differentiation.
The highest level of talent is reserved for the transformers, the change agents, the rainmakers in an organization, because they understand how gravity and perception works. Transformer talent is to define new frameworks, ideologies, or technologies that radically change peoples life’s. Transformers identify the potential in employees and create the conditions so others can change. Transformers have the ability to morph into anything that is helpful for the common goals, they are the highly adaptable people.
If you evaluate peoples talent in the future, simply look at what, how, and why they are doing what they are doing. Are they using templates, modifying them? Are they building templates for others or are they even building new frameworks and meaning of understanding?
It is easy to spot talent, if you know what you need to look for.
Hiring talent outside your organiztion
If you have ever been involved in hiring new employees and you are honest about your own abilities of spotting talent, you have to admit, that the chances are 50/50 that the new hire will perform according to your expectations. With other words, regardless of how sophisticated your evaluation and measurement process is, you have no chance of predicting future success of an employee. If you are lucky, 80% of your new hires will perform at or above company expectation, but this is still no proof, that you actually hired talent and not just a average human being who managed to blend in.
The problem with hiring talent lies in our understanding of what talent actually is. If we believe that talent is absolute strength in a skillset defined by the personell request, than that kind of talent is what we get. This approach worked for many years, particularly in hierarchical organizational structures, were people get payed by the skillset they bring to the table. Future organizations however need to be highly agile in order to adapt to frequent changes in the markets and industries. This means, that recruiters do not know what skillset is needed for tomorrows challenges. The skillset defining talent of the future is therefore not any particular skillset, but the skill of constantly learning new things and adapting existing knowledge to the new problems that arise. The skillset of the future is therefore not a skill, but a mindset that accepts change as the norm. The big question is not anymore “what are your strength”, but “how how quickly can you learn new things, and adapt, if we change our business model, our processes, our structures, and everything tomorrow.” The most wanted talent of tomorrow are the super “adaptable” people.
Learn more about these colored zebras, your most creative and sensitive assets in the company, and how to create a culture, so they stay.
We help organizations to identify those people, and help to transform the organizational culture, so these people don’t leave after 2 weeks, or worse, don’t leave but get sick.
Personal growth and success does not happen in a vacuum. All social achievements are collective. This puts a high importance on our personal and organizational eco system, so if we talk about personal growth and transformation, we also need to talk about the eco system and its culture as a whole.
Our eco system provides us strength and support when we need it, so in a way our eco systems function is that of a security net. The stronger our eco system, the smaller the risk of falling deep, or our eco system letting us fall. The problem with gravity is, that is works in both directions. Our eco system also works as a invisible expectation setter for us. This time however, our eco system can function in ways of holding us back. This is especially painful, if our dreams are high, and the perception and imagination ability of our eco system is low. This phenomena is documented in studies of low economic classes and educational aspirations.
Two things can happen if talent meets a low performing team, family or organization:
- talent gives up dreams of high achievements because of fear of loosing the ecosystem
- talent exchanges the eco system for a higher developed one
This is one of the reasons for the invention of family or systems therapy. In essence, therapists got tired of fixing up people only to see them relapse when they were released back into their old eco systems. This is when psychology learned, that the whole system needs fixing, because the patient does not have a problem, but only manifests the problems of the system.
Measuring talent and the problem of absolute vs. relative strength
The ideological problem
Aptitude test are based on the assumption, that if people do what they are best at, their chances of becoming happy are the greatest, which is true in 80% of the cases.
Based on the assumption that through repetition we automatically become better at it, which is basically true. However, just because we do something often, does not make it automatically the best choice, but just a dominant phenomenon.
However, your personal preference is not in 100% of the cases what is best for all parties involved.
„If you only got a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.“
It is possible to drive a screw into a wall with a hammer, but a screw driver would still be the best choice.
The practical problem
Aptitude tests measure preferred ways of thinking, feeling and acting and defining them as strength. The problem of duality however is, that our biggest strength in some situations (at least 20% of the cases) , are also our biggest weaknesses in other situations.
Darwin defined therefore the ability to adapt to a chaning environment as the greater strength.
The story of David and Goliath illustrates the point, that relative strength is worthless if the conditions change.
The HPSS measures integrated strength or creativity and not relative strength, because relative strength leads to one sidedness and ultimately to tensions and injuries, while integrated strength allows for adaptation