July 21, 2002

Recommended: Joyce Slaton's...

Recommended: Joyce Slaton's SFgate.com article about news-blogs, featuring me>, who writes very sensibly about real-world environmental issues (and the press coverage thereof), and never fails to deliver quality lemur pictures; and of Geitner Simmons, who is an editorial writer on the Omaha World-Herald, and uses his private site to intelligently discuss all matters of history, policy, the South, and more (he's on vacation now, but check in on him when he's back). For anyone interested in issues of management, recruitment, corporate fads and bubble-creating mythology, I highly recommend this excellent Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker, entitled "The Talent Myth." And finally, speaking of bullshit management fads, here's an enlightening little rant by Jeff Jarvis about "a new corporate ethic called work."

Posted by at July 21, 2002 12:42 PM
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Hey Matt -- welcome back.

I like Gladwell's stuff: it's always interesting, even when I disagree with it. There's something that bothered me about this piece, though. It doesn't really argue for the conclusion Gladwell advertises -- for instance, in his title. At least that's how it seemed to me.

For instance, his examples of the ludicrous mismanagement of Enron and the lack of correlation between IQ and job performance, doesn't add up to a "talent myth." I could've told you from personal experience that the worst workers you can find -- lazy, nasty, ignorant of their job, and generally can't be bothered -- are college students working McJobs they're much too smart for. (Or so they believe, usually with justification.) Hey, I was one of them.

As for Enron, it doesn't sound like they hired the most talented people they could find and then focused on keeping them satisfied -- which is what the empirical study Gladwell attacks claimed to be characteristic of well managed companies. It sounds like they hired people with impressive paper credentials and then ignored their bad performance.

That's not a "talent myth," that's just stupid.

Posted by: Daniel Jacobson at July 22, 2002 04:28 PM

Daniel -- Hi there! I'm not really back, just sorta.

I think Gladwell *did* make the point about the mistake of gearing your internal organization toward finding & pleasing your "talented" in-house "stars." So, it became more important to let people be innovative & self-starting, than to focus specifically on the record of their performance. I'm sure that such a climate is made easier when the company has an ill-defined & rapidly changing profile, a la Enron, and most Internet companies. Maybe *that's* the dot Gladwell failed to connect -- that corporations organized around developing & deferring to talent at the expense of old-fashioned numbers-based performance are *far* more likely to be found in sectors based on cutting-edge technology, funded by a speculative bubble....

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 22, 2002 04:52 PM
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d">Posted by at July 21, 2002 12:42 PM
Comments

Hey Matt -- welcome back.

I like Gladwelpiece, though. It doesn't really argue for the conclusion Gladwell advertises -- for instance, in his title. At least that's how it seemed to me.

For instance, his examples of the ludicrous mismanagement of Enron and the lack of correlation between IQ and job performance, doesn't add up to a "talent myth." I could've told you from personal experience that the worst workers you can find -- lazy, nasty, ignorant of their job, and generally can't be bothered -- are college students working McJobs they're much too smart for. (Or so they believe, usually with justification.) Hey, I was one of them.

As for Enron, it doesn't sound like they hired the most talented people they could find and then focused on keeping them satisfied -- which is what the empirical study Gladwell attacks claimed to be characteristic of well managed companies. It sounds like they hired people with impressive paper credentials and then ignored their bad performance.

That's not a "talent myth," that's just stupid.

Posted by: Daniel Jacobson at July 22, 2002 04:28 PM

Daniel -- Hi there! I'm not really back, just sorta.

I think Gladwell *did* make the point about the mistake of gearing your internal organization toward finding & pleasing your "talented" in-house "stars." So, it became more important to let people be innovative & self-starting, than to focus specifically on the record of their performance. I'm sure that such a climate is made easier when the company has an ill-defined & rapidly changing profile, a la Enron, and most Internet companies. Maybe *that's* the dot Gladwell failed to connect -- that corporations organized around developing & deferring to talent at the expense of old-fashioned numbers-based performance are *far* more likely to be found in sectors based on cutting-edge technology, funded by a speculative bubble....

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 22, 2002 04:52 PM
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