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Jans Corner: Turning Talent into Genius

Albert Einstein said that “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Genius stands out it in any business yet rarely do we see that genius is widely experienced and witnessed in everyday work. When I work with teams and watch life unfold in enterprises, much more often do I see “fish” being criticised and condemned for poor tree climbing or encouraged to try harder. Admittedly, even the fishiest fish, when provided with a sweet enough carrot and hard enough stick, will think that climbing is the way to go to make it or at least survive at work.

As a result, genius is killed before it can even see the world and the most of creative and productive potential as well as aliveness of ingenious people during a good half of their waking hours is wasted.

Smart companies – big or small – hate to waste any form of talent. They like their squirrels on the trees and fish in the water. The put the Ferrari on the race track (or Autobahn) and the Landrover in the rugged terrain. They will put their diamonds on exhibition and their gravel in foundations. By unleashing talent they allow genius to show up.

Still, everyone has a talent but rarely do we see genius at work. How do we turn on the genius gene in an apparently average individual?

Here are four pointers:

1. Discovering the talent:  It starts with believing that gold is hidden in everyone and continuing looking for it. Nowadays there are numerous methods and tools to make it easier and faster to pinpoint individual talents and often times even basic curiosity, observation and inquiry can go a long way. Discovering one’s talent can be very liberating experience.

2. Understanding the talent: Any talent needs to be understood for the value it brings to the venture and the team. What exactly can we do better, faster, cheaper, more enjoyably as a result of having someone with this talent. In most instances when we peel the onion we can see the value that individuals talents bring to the table and become not just liberating but exciting – for everyone. Work can be both easier, more productive and fun.

3. Developing the talent: When the value of someones talent is well understood the next step is to create opportunities for it to be developed and used. Projects and accountabilities can be designed around making the best out of talents so that the value can be practically used. In practice, this often is a matter of focus and courage. Focus to keep the fish in the water and courage to allow it to swim, even if the first instance is a small fish tank.

4. Effectively engaging the talent: Finally, talent turns into genius when it is effectively given to empower others and directed to fulfil a larger worthwhile purpose. This is about vision and commitment. The Apollo XY landed on the moon on XX August1968 out of a commitment to a bold vision and as a result of genius of thousands of individuals at work for a decade. There is nothing more stimulating and satisfying then bringing our best to something really great! This is when talent turns into real genius and when everything flows naturally.

The good news is that both team leaders and team members, employers and employees, can participate in the process and take responsibility to make genius happen. Discovering, understanding, developing and effectively engaging everyone’s talent is a win-win for everyone.

And the real opportunity to create genius at work is about creating a game worth playing – exciting, challenging, meaningful and one that make a real difference… not just increases the bottom line.

Whether you are an executive leader, HR manager, or employee behind a desk I’m sure you can rise your game today. Are you up for it?


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