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27 Apr 2015

Most Common Mistake Assessing Talent

It is easy to make the most common mistake assessing talent.

A natural human bias makes the most common mistake assessing talent easy to make.

The most common mistake assessing talent comes to light in an oak tree. I like oak trees. They are weather resistant and shady. They grow slowly though.

I saw an oak growing underneath a pine tree at a friend’s house. It was very short but had a thick trunk. I suspected it was older than its height suggested. I asked my friend if I could transplant it. It was in the way, so he said, “Yes.”

I gave it a very open, sunny spot. It grew very fast. Nothing was in the way anymore. It easily passed a taller oak I had planted earlier. It got its chance to break out.

Most Common Mistake Assessing Talent

The most common mistake assessing talent is too much focus on results. The tree is short. It must be too young. It will need too much time to grow.

Results are fickle. Much depends on conditions and work of others. It is a normal human bias to give too much credit to a person’s efforts. If they land on the right end of the bell curve, they must be good.

In assessing talent, some will finish at the right end of the bell curve no matter what happens. In other words, we misinterpret luck as talent. Those who win the lottery must be clairvoyant, right?

Real Focus

Over time, talent will show itself. That is the way to address luck. This takes time though. Plus, all situations are not the same. Business is not a sport. We do not all have the same tools and do not have use them in the same way.

The focus then is on process. How do people use their gifts and tools? Even something as simple as experience is highly suspect. Two can have the same experience. That does not mean they get the same out of it.

A small sponge can soak up more water than a large rock. When it comes to experience, some are like sponges. Others are like rocks. Some build resumes. Others build skill sets.

It is easy to look at results and experience though. It is hard to look at process. That is why it takes talent to assess talent.

2 Responses

  1. And some would not even consider this one a mistake: willingness to tow the line at all costs is often given more value than intelligence. Want to try and right the ship? Be prepared to hear “don’t rock the boat!”

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