Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You can acquire talent in more than one way

Talent can be acquired in more than one way; with or without educational background, or by following a role model, or by relying on one's own strengths.

In the earlier blog, we discussed how a working model of a task of 'stock broking' converts knowledge into a skill. One has to 'refine' the same working model to convert the skill into a talent. In other words, your journey of becoming a talented performer in your field is via the 'task model' that you develop. Task model is the medium of acquiring talent.

A working model can be built using solid 'knowledge base' of the ' task area'. For instance, Nicholas Taleb's 'task model' of stock market is based on the theory of 'randomness and probability'. Harshad Mehta, who made huge money from stock broking was a High school student. His 'task model' of stock broking was perhaps based on the simple 'rules' of buy and sell. Although, he later became too ambitious and used 'bank money', which landed him into trouble, one cannot ignore his talent in stock broking. He proved that the task model of  'Stock broking' does not need a degree in Economics or a Phd in Mathematics.

On the other hand, one can follow a completely different route to build one's task model. For instance, Warren Buffet  has a completely different 'working model' of share broking which relies on investing in one or two companies, and then influencing the company by taking huge stake in the company. There are various ways of climbing the mountain, so to say. Warren Buffet used his own 'strengths' to develop a task model of stock broking which earned him millions, as have Nicholas Taleb and Harshad Mehta

Books on talent building ( stock broking or any other talent) are misleading, because there is no one 'best' working model of a task. Every working model is highly 'customised' for the task done by the individual. Whose book will you follow: Nicholas Taleb, Harshad Mehta or Warren Buffet? Only one thing is common: Every task model has to go through the rigorous process of 'reality-testing'. Initial robustness or comprehensiveness does not matter. Accuracy does not matter. It's ultimate value depends on how you do the reality-testing so that the model closely reflects the as-is reality.

One of the biggest class of best seller books are management books written by erstwhile successful managers. As you will realise now, they are not particularly useful because of the above characteristics of task model. Every manager has to built his own 'task model' to manage his own unit/branch/group. The task model of 'management', to be useful, has to be sensitive to context ( depend on the function, domain and industry of the unit), cultural practices of the company in which he or she is working ( implicit company rules and practices) and the personal strength and weakness of the individual who is managing ( people oriented, task oriented ). Because of the highly 'contextual' nature of task model of management, one cannot easily adopt someone else's task model of management. And you will also observe  a curious phenomenon here:  Building a good task model of management does not require any degree in management, or post degree qualification in organisation behaviour.

Apart from task of 'management', which are the two big professional tasks where a talent can be developed without any educational background? Just take a guess. One is cooking !. Another is ....!.Hint: we engage with these talented people every day.

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