Monday, 1 March 2010


I recently found a book by Malcolm Gladwell called “What The Dog Saw”- a collection of his essays from the New Yorker and there’s one in it called “The Talent Myth. Are Smart People Over-rated?” It’s about that blinding revelation that McKinsey and others had about “talent” which goes like this:

“a deep seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you outperform your competitors”

This led to a seminal book – “The War For Talent” which has alone created the new orthodoxy of American Management. Quotes inspired by this mind-set abound:-

“we hire very smart people and pay them more than they think they are worth”

That’s from Richard Foster’s presciently titled book “Creative Destruction”. This comes from a guy at General Electric:-

“don’t be afraid to promote stars without specifically relevant experience, seemingly over their heads”

Gladwell tells us about one particular company that bought “The War For Talent” mythology hook line and sinker from McKinsey and became the ultimate talent company, stocking it with the best college and MBA graduates they could find.

That company was Enron.

Gladwell’s question relates to the absence of correlation between IQ and performance in the workplace and he quotes Richard Wagner, a psychologist at Florida State University who said this:-

“in terms of how you evaluate schooling, everything is about working by yourself. If you work with someone else it’s called cheating.

Once you get out in the real world everything you do involves working with other people.”

The next time you hear someone talk about “talent” think about this. Are they good with people? And if they aren’t, don’t hire them.

No comments: