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Talent Is Overrated

What really separates world class performers from everybody else

by Geoff Colvin

· Book Review,Organisational
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The premise is if we are all born equal what makes some people stand out. Very interesting starting point, as I’ve been asking the same question about creativity (i.e. if we are all borne creative why are some people just so good at it ?)


So in regards to the great performers, why do some of us excel – is it hard work or natural talent?


Colvin proceeds to dismantle a number of assumptions about intelligence, IQ testing, innate abilities and concludes that in the end it’s all about practice. But not just repetitive practice, but a special kind of practice made famous by Anders Ericsson’s studies on practice and the 10 000 hours rule.


Further studies undertaken by Ericsson’s research team show that great performers showed no precocity or natural talents. They have also shown that top level performers took many years to become excellent.


Colvin then dissects how deliberate practice works. Under the theme ‘perceiving more’ he shows that great performers

  • Understand the significance of indicators that average performers don’t notice, these are small but telling signals that can inform them;
  • They look further ahead, literally looking into the future with gaze or perspective;
  • They know more from seeing less, they make decisions that are the most critical;
  • They make finer discriminations than average performers, seeing differences that others don’t see.

These crucial abilities are results of training and practice and he goes on to explore how memory and expertise in domain all contribute.


Extensive, well structured, deliberate practice develops the specific abilities of great performers to perceive more, know more and remember more are contributing factors to develop critical abilities of exceptional performance. He then goes on to explore how we can use this to excel in both our personal and professional lives tapping in to a mindset philosophy to achieve more in all we do.


For more on Ericsson's research see the post from 6 July 2018- How to make your kid good at anything