Talent: Do we have enough?

Do you consider talent to be a finite resource possessed by a few fortunate individuals? What if it was a limitless potential that could be evoked intentionally through engaging in particular practices? Furthermore, what if people could learn the skill of evoking talent in others?

The actuality is that some people do release new power in themselves. In addition, we recognise that certain leaders and teachers are indeed able to call forth a new way of responding in others. We call this being inspirational! A colleague, Dr Piergiulio Poli, and I decided to undertake some action-research to identify how talent is developed, with the aim of being able to make the process replicable.

We began by defining what we meant by talent, which we saw as being the ability to do something that is both difficult and valuable (to the self and to others). We explored how the process of developing that ability takes place in ourselves, and in the people with whom we work as organisational practitioners and therapists.

Positive feedback from others seemed relevant, yet was not quite sufficient of itself to facilitate the necessary growth. We decided that responding to challenging situations is actually what brings about the development of a particular talent. Integration of a new aspect of self is necessary in order to resolve the situation in a satisfactory way. AsGestalt practitioners we have access to a body of literature that explores this process in great detail.

Situations need to be challenging enough (and to matter enough) to call forth the new response, but not so challenging that they defeat the individual involved. We found the work of twentieth century Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky useful. Understanding learning as being a social occurrence, he emphasised the role of a facilitator in recognising how much challenge is useful and when it is counter-productive. The facilitator, who could be a manager, trainer or coach, also provides very important support and encouragement for the learner.

While we face challenging situations all the time in our lives and develop new abilities and facets of our selves in response, the presence of an experienced ‘other’ can calibrate the process and so provide valuable new learning and bring about effective action that resolves the situation in a profoundly meaningful way.

It’s fine (even essential) to be ordinary most of the time. Occasionally, though, it’s great to step out and become extraordinary! We can achieve this by evoking the talent that is latent within. Piergiulio and I believe our research offers some interesting insights and tools for facilitating that process.