Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I remember a comment made by Mike on this blog a couple of months ago
regarding how to identify talent. Let me quote something from Closework:

"[...] we talk about gifted people, but the most important
gift may be the talent to practise. The inner strength and desire to
keep practising on and on. That's something you can't teach."

Well, I am too optimistic about human potential to agree with the fact
that you can't teach or motivate someone to practise his or her art,
but I agree with the fact that, as Gandhi used to say, "an ounce of
practise is worth more than a ton of theory".
So perhaps one way of identifying talent is to assess how big a person's propensity to apply tools and knowledge is and how well they can practise their art... which is not necessarily well predicted by how "big" the names for which they worked in the past were.

This is not theory. This is what we did together with Mike when we recruited the development team of a small software company we ran together. We assessed technical knowledge, the ability to use that knowledge in practise, personality characteristics and fit with the requirements of a risky start-up. And you know what? That team was pure talent!

Monday, April 18, 2005


Benoit, a good friend of mine was kind enough to send me a book he said would provide food for thought. The title is Closework and I found it incredibly engaging and definitely interesting. It's a business book that is woven into a novel or perhaps the opposite. The authors wanted to write a different business book that would not be "damn academic". Well, this one is not and it certainly feels like very practical stuff from the real world out there.
The authors argue that what ultimately makes a difference in business is the willingness to be in the field with the people who actually do the work and to facilitate their activity. What Closework is about is the absolute opposite of what big strategy consulting houses do for a living, i.e. engaging with Boards and senior management on consulting projects based on apparently flawless thinking. Flawless but not necessarily right in the real world out there, because at the end of the day it is people actually doing the work who hold the keys to sustainable competitive advantage.

Well, I kind of like that! I believe in the importance of people as key contributors to lasting success. And you know what? The places and "big names" for which one decides to work (or not) are not good predictors of one's ability to contribute. So much for old-world criteria for selecting talent.

I agree with most of what Closework asserts and I can say that working with people in the field has been the common characteristic of every single successful endeavor of mine. At the same time,  I feel it is important to keep watching the world, to keep learning (and unlearning) "theoretical stuff" and see how they can be actually applied and to be building actionable visions of the future. The combination of sound thinking and effective action is a key to lasting success in business in my opinion. I have not found my ideal mix yet, but I am working on it... in field conditions!