For years I have been coaching jobseekers to focus on their talent and not their skills and experience. Talent is the reason why some people are stars at their jobs while others are just ok… and you can’t train or teach talent. But I was reading an essay by Malcom Gladwell, when these few sentences grabbed my attention:
They were there looking for people who had the talent to think outside the box. It never occurred to them that, if everyone had to think outside the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing.
He’s talking about Enron, Arthur Anderson, Worldcom etc… big companies that hired and financially rewarded young MBAs to become stars by pushing them to think outside of the box. And while they were doing this, the whole place fell apart.
I’m summarising Malcolm’s essay dramatically here but he made a case that creating a talented organisation is far better than relying on a plethora of talented people. In other words, an extraordinary busines can make ordinary people achieve extraordinary things. We often assume that people make organisations smart… often it’s the other way around.