Daily Archives: September 21, 2009

Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

Talent Is Overrated claims that high performers achieve because of (smart) hard work and not at all because of any inborn talents. While it’s refreshing to think that great performance is possible for all of us I remain very doubtful that truly outstanding achievement doesn’t require at least a modicum of talent (plus lots of work, I agree on that point) and the author never makes a completely convincing argument to the contrary. He does make several interesting points, including the fact that better performers not only know more about their field but have organized their knowledge in more efficient ways than beginners, hence googling our way through the world may bring lots of good information but not the structure that we need to develop for deep knowledge.  And as a heavy sleeper I loved the idea that people who sleep more also achieve more.

Now why did I not like this book? First, the author is an editor at Fortune magazine so the book is focused on business people, but most of the examples are from the world of sports and despite the author’s efforts it’s just a little difficult to imagine how a business person would practice their craft… Also the paeans to the usual business suspects and especially GE and JAck Welch are annoying. Why worship greed? (I get it, perhaps we need to worship advertisers.) Finally, what’s up with a chapter title like “Performing Great at Innovation”. Really? What did you learn in 7th grade English class?

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