What is talent – would you know it if you saw it? More importantly, how is it relevant to your organization? These questions are fundamental to the talent debate and yet we often stall at the first one: what is talent? In business as in life talent has become defined as 'those with a special gift or ability'. 'Special' denotes unusual or rare, conjuring images of incredible prodigies such as Mozart or athletes such as Usain Bolt. In recent years talent has become closely associated with stardom; from American Idol's Kelly Clarkson to Susan Boyle in Britain's Got Talent, it's a well-worn story about an individual battling personal hardship and breaking out of anonymity to achieve celebrity status.
These associations play out into the way we think about talent in organizations. We have superstar CEOs and international investment bankers who attract the title 'masters of the Universe'. This view has been supported in recent years by HR practices dedicated to spotting and nurturing high potential 'executive talent'. This has created elite talent pools: people who receive dedicated attention, investment and reward throughout their careers. These individuals are indeed talented and influential; however, we believe this 'narrow, rare and special' way of thinking about talent has become dated.
Why? Very simply: because this view of talent will not grow or sustain organizations in the future.