On Talent is Overrated

I just finished reading On Talent is Overrated – What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin. The main premise of the book is that performing at high levels is not a mere function of innate talent, but the results of years of “deliberate practice”.  The later is not what most of us consider practice to be, indeed it consists of the following elements: It can be repeated a lot, feedback on results is continuously available, it’s highly demanding mentally and it isn’t much fun. While this hypothesis may not be earth shattering, its implications and applications in organizations is far reaching. This leads us to rethink the following (as stated by the author):

1- Understand that each person in the organization is not just doing a job, but also being stretched and grown.

2- Find ways to develop leaders within their jobs.

3- Encourage their leaders to be active in their communities.

4- Understand the critical roles of teachers and feedback.

5- Identifying promising performers early.

6- Understand that people development works best through inspiration, not authority.

7- Invest significant time, money, and energy in developing people.

8- Make leadership development part of the culture.

Leading companies are one that have embedded the above understanding as part of their respective corporate cultures. The author not only focuses on the corporate world, but gives examples from a wide variety of fields to support his hypothesis, such as sports, music, chess etc. He goes on to also discuss what drives us to become great and the elements of passion.

What I particularly like about this book, is its one that gets you thinking outside the box, and makes you rethink how successful people in your life and their journey to greatness. This book is a must read for any leader to help him better unleash the talent within their organization. My only critique about this book is that it does not discuss in any depth some of the cases in our every day lives where innate talent has played a big role in helping the respective individuals achieve greatness.

I will end with a quote from the book: “Great performance is not reserverd for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.”


Omar Halabieh

Talent Is Overrated


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