Creating the right conditions for talent to flourish
Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, gave a fascinating talk to an audience in California recently, available on Fora TV. As someone who has made creativity and education a life’s work, Sir Ken’s talk offers some great insights into how we can meet some of the big challenges we face in the future. He makes a direct analogy between our waste of natural resources, leading to the crisis we have today in regard to climate change, and our needless and expensive waste of human talent. Human aptitude is often buried deep, he says. Very often we are unaware of our natural aptitude for something. The best way for educators and business leaders to encourage the best in people is not to box them in and not to come to quick judgements about whether a particular aptitude is useful or not.
For example, he refers to a story about a young boy who discovered he could walk as easily on his hands as on his feet – his parents enjoyed his skill without passing judgement one way or the other. The boy was Bart Conner who became a world-leading gymnast and along with his wife, Nadia Comaneci, has educated thousands of gymnasts for the Special Olympics.
Sir Ken, who grew up in a working-class neighbourhood in Liverpool in the UK in the 1950s, advised a local school later on in his career, which had since had two quite well-known individuals as students: Paul McCartney and George Harrison. In both cases, the music teacher of the time managed to miss the fact that these two individuals had any musical talent. “He had half the Beatles group in his school”, says Sir Ken and he did not spot their talent. Does any business leader want to be accused of missing talent on this scale?
Sir Ken suggests that the best analogy for managers is not industrialisation but agriculture, where farmers and gardeners must create the right conditions for something to grow. But they cannot make it grow. His whole thesis is highly relevant for the debate about the management of women. Organisations have to learn to create the right conditions to develop the best women talent right to the top of their professions. Otherwise, they will continue to waste more than half the talent in the labour market. However, if they do manage to create more flexible, gender bilingual corporate cultures, they will be creating fertile conditions for all of their talent, men and women.
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