What’s a genius anyway?

Pablo Sarasate (violin virtuoso) stated “A genius!  For 37 years I’ve practiced 14 hours a day, and now they call me a genius” (cited in Simonton, 1999) *.

Last week I wrote a post called ‘Stroke of Genius’ and it attracted a pretty high level of interest. Clearly a popular topic. And many comments I received were along similar lines, mentioning that identifying talent in the first place is often the most difficult challenge faced. I figured that I owed it to myself and readers to address this area in today’s post.

source: blog.kennedyviolins.com

source: blog.kennedyviolins.com

Well, right up front, we need to think about recruitment.

Recruiting talent
Do you know what you are looking for in the first place?

This is not as simple a question as it might first appear. For example, if you are a company, can you answer the following questions?

  • What does the company look like today, and what will it look like in two, three, or four years time?
  • What is the company’s medium to long term strategy?
  • What sort of people will it need to succeed in that strategy? Same as today or very different talent?
  • What sort of roles will be most critical in the future? And how much market demand will there be for those people?
  • What aptitudes will it take to operate in these future positions?

Are the people who are making recruitment decisions and identifying talent sufficiently aware of the future strategic plans for the business? Or are they blindly cultivating talent based on a model of today’s business? Continue reading

Stroke of Genius

I was intrigued by an article I read this week on 5 Reasons Your Top Employee Isn’t Happy. It got me thinking about how we manage talent.  And maybe there lies the problem – in that very word ‘manage’.  Talent is a precious thing, but should it be given ‘maverick status’ or does it need to be controlled?  Well, I guess the answer might well vary depending on the culture of the company, what period in the company’s development you are at, or what sort of leader you are?

source: bbc.co.uk

source: bbc.co.uk

I immediately thought about the football team analogy. I have played and watched football over more years than I care to remember, and the recurring debate about how teams should accommodate rare talent just never goes away.  What I have seen,  is that teams who are riding on the crest of a wave, winning everything in sight, and blowing the opposition away, can often afford the ‘luxury’ of the occasional ‘maverick’ or ‘outlier’.  Often described as a genius, these players entertain the crowds and keep the sports (and sometimes front-page) writers happy.

But, when the going gets tough, everyone is expected to put in a shift. Sulking on the wings with your hands on hips, complaining about not getting good service, doesn’t go down well – not with the crowd (or shareholders), team mates (or work colleagues) or coach (boss).

It’s a big issue for companies too. When someone is bestowed the title talent (or genius) – what is expected of them and of others?   Continue reading

Throw away the ladder and start climbing

Do organisations and companies really still talk about the ‘career ladder’?  Well, it seems they do. They still live on in the minds of people and, some companies and organisations do still promise rising talent a fast-track route up the ladder, in return for loyalty and extended service.

Reading Leadership Freak’s post today,  I was inspired by a much more meaningful metaphor for the 21st Century than the ‘career ladder’  –  that of “The Climbing Wall”.

photo source: journal.davidbyrne.com

Multi-directional  While ladders are unidirectional, stifling and create ‘log-jams’, on a climbing wall you may move laterally as well as vertically. You may even choose to take a downward step in order to gain a more favourable foothold that will help propel you on an upward journey.

Keeping Options Open  The climbing wall allows you, at times, to have your feet in two different places. Having ‘a foot in two camps’ as you navigate your career, allows you to weigh up your next best move. This may temporarily be challenging, but It keeps your options open, and provides greater flexibility. We are increasingly seeing people operate in this way in the world of work, having more than one job, straddling disciplines, and changing career more often.  The possible routes you can take on a wall are endless, limited only by your imagination, while the traditional ladder concept makes it difficult to change, typically forcing you to come off the ladder and start again on a new one.

photo source: photography.nationalgeographic.com

Cooperation  You also have more opportunity to cooperate while on a climbing wall than you do on a ladder. People can more easily climb side by side, learning from a mentor perhaps, or with a coach who is simultaneously supporting and challenging.  You can also see people who may be in your way, you can take detours and move around them, rather than sit patiently waiting for them to move up the ladder ahead of you.

Breadth and Diversity  Multi-directional “wall climbing” in organisations, connects you with so many more people, aiding diversity, creativity and collaboration. Of course, we need deep specialists, and, in some technical areas, such as medicine, engineering or law, it is important that people become ‘expert’ in their chosen discipline.  However,  everyone can benefit from a broad awareness of other functions and disciplines, helping them become even more successful in their chosen speciality in the long run.

In today’s economic climate, possessing  a breadth of skills and experience is vital, and being ready and prepared to move in different directions, as circumstances change, is an essential asset.  Waiting your turn on the ladder, blinkered to what is going on around, is a dangerous strategy, leaving you exposed in a rapidly changing world.  In evolution, those best able to adapt, survive. Being fleet of foot, multi-skilled and able (and willing) to change direction, are the attributes that will help people thrive in this rapidly-changing and increasingly unpredictable world.

To discuss your future career aspirations and consider how you can enhance the flexibility, resilience and adaptability you will need to succeed, simply submit your contact details on the Contact Us page and I will be delighted to contact you for an initial chat.