Malcolm Gladwell in 2004 put together his manifesto on The TalentMyth (get it at It is a brief write-up on the work some Mckinsey consultants put together regarding “The War for Talent� that profiled numerous Big Cheese Co’s, one of which was a company where McKinsey’s billings topped ten million dollars a year, where a McKinsey director regularly attended board meetings, and where the C.E.O. himself was a former McKinsey partner. The company, of course, was Enron.

This eBook raises some important questions:
1) How much do we let Talent fail?
Failure is an important lesson. The Gaming Generation are learning this at lighting pace (failure is now portable with the PSP … and so is success!), where those a little older may not have learnt that you can pick yourself up after failure. In Enron’s glory days Talent was what differentiated them from their competitors, so they claimed. In taking talent so seriously they did not let failures get in the way of talent development e.g. Lou Pai, who after launching Enron’s power-trading business lead the unit head first into failure, was given more and more opportunities because he was “talentâ€?. In the end, being responsible for millions of dollars worth of losses for Enron, he walked away with $270million as a golden handshake. Do we put a ceiling to failed attempts? This then raises the next question …
2) Do we evaluate Talent as potential or as performance?
In their talent frenzy, Enron shoveled opportunities onto their Talent such that they never stuck around long enough to be evaluated on performance, but were rated against their potential.
Gladwell argues that the link between I.Q. and job performance is weak. On a scale where 0.1 or below means virtually no correlation and 0.7 or above implies a strong correlation (your height, for example, has a 0.7 correlation with your parents’ height), the correlation between I.Q. and occupational success is between 0.2 and 0.3. And so what I.Q. doesn’t pick up is effectiveness at common-sense aspects of performance e.g. working with people. Enron’s talent didn;t stick aorund long enough to be rated on performance – not thier fault, it was Enron that let them go wherever they wanted.
3) Who is really King?
Corner any business leader and shove a microphone into their face with the question, “What is your most important asset?� The answer is inevitably, “Our people, of course!� But is your Talent really your biggest asset, or is it your debtors book? Enron began to measure a business unit’s viability by the extent to which it attracted people, not customers. So, the needs of managers and shareholders were second those of its people. So is your customer really King, or is your Talent?
4) Is Talent fixed or malleable?
People generally hold one of two fairly firm beliefs of their intelligence: they consider it a fixed trait, or as a malleable trait that can be developed. This mindset then obviously affects how people apply, evaluate and report on their efforts. So, can a person be Talent today and Dead-wood tomorrow? Or vice versa?

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