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!