The Talent Revolution: Unlocking Your Talent Potential
With 15 seconds left on the shot clock, Michael Jordan, soars in the air and hits the game winning jump shot of the 1982 NCAA championship, marking the beginning of an enduring legacy. Whoever thought that just a few years back the “greatest of all time,” was sulking at home after being cut from his high school basketball team? Nine years later, the legendary Tokyo Dome in Japan witnessed the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson, who was destructing all challengers in mere minutes, fall to 42-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas, setting up arguably the biggest upset in sports history. Soon after, “Iron Mike,” who was still in his physical prime, saw his career spiral down a harrowing abyss.
This phenomenon transcends sports and also prevails in the business world; where a young Japanese man by the name of Sochiro, was blatantly rejected for an engineering job at the Toyota Motor Corporation, leaving him jobless and heavily depressed for years. Little did his interviewers know, that this man would eventually form the automotive heavyweight known as Honda Motors, which until this day takes Toyota head on in fierce battles for market share. Another gentleman by the name of Walter, also went through tough times and was fired from his job as a newspaper editor “because he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Today, the organization he founded generates annual revenues of close to 50 billion USD, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Luxemborg. Furthermore, Walter Disney (better known to some as Walt) is a symbolic figure of creativity and imagination who has impacted entertainment forever. Even the forefather of electricity, Thomas Edison, was told by his teachers that he was “too stupid to learn anything,” and his first 1000 attempts to invent the lightbulb were marked by utter failure.
The Question Remains
How did Jordan catapult his talent in such a short span of time from high school castaway to a budding star? On the flipside, how did Tyson who was on his way to becoming possibly the greatest of all time, lose his innate ability to steamroll through gladiators of competition? How could such individuals and corporations look past the enormous talent and sheer ingenuity possessed by such pioneering and historic figures as Sochiro Honda, Walt Disney, and Thomas Edison?
When examining the stories of these individuals more closely, an interesting pattern emerges. Without a doubt, these individuals had an unparalleled belief and confidence in themselves, an undeniable desire to win coupled with an unbreakable will to challenge adversity head on. But was the secret to unlocking their talent potential the simple cliché to “never give up,” and “believe in yourself”; or is there something more profound involved?
The Talent Ecosystem
Whether intentionally or not, these individuals were able to land themselves in an environment which nurtured their talents, a platform in which their talents could be unleashed. This “talent ecosystem” provided them with the right role, coaches, peers, and culture that ensured their talents would be translated to unprecedented success. If they had not found or nurtured the right ecosystem, their exceptional talents may have been locked away forever.
Imagine if Steve Jobs or Bill Gates stayed in college and took the traditional corporate path, would they still be the business giants they are today. Imagine, if Sochiro Honda got the job at Toyota, would he have worked his way up the corporate ladder of a family business or would have his innovation and passion been stifled? What if Tyson never met his coach and mentor, the pugilistic genius Cus D’amato? Cus saw something special in Tyson early on and injected him with much needed confidence and swagger, while also sharpening his skills to become the youngest heavyweight champion of all time. Was it a coincidence that with his passing, Tyson’s career spiraled downwards as his talent ecosystem became dismantled?
Too often much emphasis in developing and managing talent, is focused internally to look at an individual’s innate strengths and weaknesses. However, to really unleash one’s talent potential the external environment in which they are operating in needs to be analyzed, assessed, and acted upon with as much fervor and dedication. This requires looking at talent from a different lens, and shifting the paradigm. If we examine most of the talent management and development frameworks of today, we realize that this external piece of the puzzle i.e. the talent ecosystem may not be emphasized enough.
- Talent development is just as much about the internal environment (one’s talent profile, competencies, etc.) as it is about the external environment (talent ecosystem)
- The talent ecosystem represents an individual’s operating environment driven namely by managers, peers, networks, culture, and role
- Achieving breakthrough success involves matching one’s internal talent profile with an ecosystem that will grow and nurture it
- The ecosystem should be firstly understood and then nurtured or sought after to really unleash an individual’s talent potential
- When selecting a job or even growing within, think about the ecosystem that the organization provides. Put more weight on this than other factors (salary, title, etc.) and think of ways to leverage and nurture the ecosystem which is right for you