Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Talent vs Skills vs Knowledge

In one of my new favorite movies, "Napoleon Dynamite," Napoleon laments the fact that he doesn't have any good skills and that girls only like guys with skills. While girls may look for guys with skills, I am learning that talent is the most important attribute in the workplace.

I am in the middle of a book called First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization. In it they describe the difference between talent, skills and knowledge. Talent is hardwired in the person over time. Skills are abilities that can be learned. Knowledge is the accumulation of information or experiences that enhance your ability to process your surroundings or activities. Talent is the most important of the three in the workplace because you need people with the natural ability to excell in the role that they are placed.

They describe talents as the result of the natural filters that we use to perceive our environments and stimuli. If I have a filter which allows me to stay calm under fire, then they say that is a talent. I agree with this to a certain extent. I also believe as I wrote earlier that some people have a talent for changing their filters and are therefore very adaptable, but this isn't the main point.

The main point is that you need to look for the right set of talents for each particular role. If you are lucky enough to find people with the right combination of talents, your projects will have a better chance of succeeding. While this may seem obvious, it is not something that is put into practice very easily. We seem to have the notion that we can mold people into what we want them to be, that they can change and improve. While it is true that people can change, it is also true that people rarely ever change that much. You can coach someone to be more assertive if a role calls for it, but if they don't have a talent for being assertive it will always be a challenge for them.

The authors really emphasize the need to focus on talent. If you think about it, this means that they are advocating that you hire someone with the right set of talents over someone with significantly more knowledge or skills applicable to a particular role. I am not sure yet how to identify whether someone has the right set of talents through a resume and one or more interviews. Maybe that's later in the book.


Blogger Greg said...

motivation books what about it..motivation books

12:05 AM  

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