“You’re so talented”

“You’re a natural”

“You’ve got such a knack for that”

All things we love to hear. Most of us take for granted that being skilful at something is based on innate ability. So if we can draw beautiful pictures, sing in tune or have a gift for business, then it’s all due to natural talent. Or is it? We read ‘Bounce’ to find out.

Throughout the book, Matthew Syed uses examples from the fields of sport, music and art, to explore the concept and nature of talent. He examines whether what we are good at is constrained by our DNA and background.

Why does one small street in Reading produce more top table tennis players than the rest of the country put together? And why have three sisters all become grandmaster chess players? God-given talent? Not according to ‘Bounce’. Syed, a two-time Olympic table tennis player, argues that practice is the key to being talented. So that means we could all become world famous composers like Mozart. We just need to want it. We thought that was pretty inspiring stuff.

Here’s some bits we liked on mastering a skill:

  • Innate talent is a myth, but practice makes perfect

… or 10,000 hours of practice to be precise. According to Syed, to become a “Genius” or “Master” of a skill, 10,000 hours of practice is required. So, for your graduates to reach their potential and become masters in their field, they will require 10,000 hours of practice throughout their time with you. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Actually it’s only five days a year. What opportunities are you giving your early talent pools to practice the skills they need to be successful?

  • The right kind of practice

To master a skill, it’s vital to be carrying out what Syed calls “purposeful practice”. This means extending the outer limits of your capacity, or pushing yourself harder for longer. To achieve this type of practice, you have to be both motivated and dedicated. And of course the content has to be right. If your training takes place in an environment that is safe for practising and if it incorporates purposeful practice, then you’ll be on the way to developing graduates as masters of their craft.

  • Creativity arises through practice

In order to be creative, first you need knowledge. Only then will you spark innovative creativity. Using the example of Picasso in his book, Syed explains that you can’t draw a perfect face from scratch unless you have first practised drawing each individual component. Picasso spent years accumulating knowledge on how to draw mouths, noses and eyes before he began getting creative. So how to build a creative workforce? Start with tailored training designed with individual components. This will lead to an accumulation of knowledge.

Having a robust Early Talent Strategy is crucial for developing leaders of tomorrow. By understanding what talent means to you and your organisation, you can ensure that your workforce is able to face future challenges. Whether talent is something we’re born with, or something we can learn, honing it though great training is key.

By Griffith Jones

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