Natural Talent? I Think Not.

We’ve probably all heard a reference to someone as having “natural talent” or being “particularly gifted in an area” or even being a prodigy.  Such claims are often made about athletes or musicians but you will hear them about just about any kind of profession.  And they’re complete bunk.

Professor Anders Ericsson at Florida State is the leading researcher into what has now become known as “Genius Research”.  Ericsson and others look at what it takes for someone to become an outstanding performer in their field.  What they’ve found out is that raw talent, even physical ability (like size in football or height in basketball) make very little difference in determining whether or not someone becomes great or not.  Instead, it’s primarily about two different factors:

  • How much you practice
  • How well you practice

Let’s take a look at each of these factors. Continue reading “Natural Talent? I Think Not.”

A Few Thoughts About Motivation

Motivation is one of the most common work-related issues I hear from clients (“these people are unmotivated” or “we want high scores on the climate survey to improve everyone’s motivation”).  Yet motivation, especially from a performance perspective, tends to be oversimplified by most managers and executives.

First, no-one (well, other than perhaps someone who’s dead) is completely unmotivated.  We all have motivation.  It’s simply not true that a group of employees is unmotivated.  The problem is that motivation is usually a complex issue with a range of factors playing a role.  I may want to do a good job and get praise from my supervisor.  But I also don’t want to end up doing work that some slacker didn’t do—that isn’t fair.  And while I may believe in working hard I also don’t want to have to stay late and get caught in bad rush-hour traffic.  Plus, my favorite TV series is on tonight and we’re having an early dinner so I’m preoccupied by those thoughts.  And I like dealing with the immediate project I’ve been assigned but find two members of my project team to be boring or irritating so I want to spend as little time with them as possible.  And our staff meetings run on too long.  As a result, I work hard but try to look busy as quitting time approaches and on Tuesday I’m going to come up with any excuse I can to avoid extra work or find a reason to duck out early (while on Wednesdays I’m willing to stay late) and I have a reputation for sweating the small stuff and producing good work product. Continue reading “A Few Thoughts About Motivation”