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Monday, December 20, 2004

TALENT IS AN ANAGRAM

Have been mulling over the capacious proliferation of Talent Hunts in the near future. A little earlier, there were Man Hunts and Model Hunts ( the probable equivalent in the UK being a Fox Hunt and in Germany a Dachshund ) which ostensibly aimed at unearthing hidden reservoirs of talent.

I have my own thoughts on these as an HR professional—the most damning indictment of the contemporary understanding of Talent in an organizational context seeping from two Gallup guys called Buckingham & Coffman in their best-selling tome “ First, Break All The Rules “.. One of the tenets of this school of thought being “ Hire for Talent, Train for Skill” etc. The most accepted definition of talent thus reads "a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied."

After the detour—these hunts have extended to feral fields as diverse as music, dance, sports, talk shows, education, “ star-appeal” and into various other domains which get further segregated till almost everyone who can serve up something watchable/marketable gets a category.
At a level, one can easily empathize with newer outlets --might stem from an innate human need to be appreciated, affirmed and adored.

So far so good. The first precursor of doom is that since there is almost something of value held out as an inducement for the Holy Purveyor of Talent, the motivation to squeeze out the last tantalizing drop of a largely presumed ability vitiates the very essence of talent—it being a breezy casual offhand element. I can only aver that the many combatants who participate in such hunts spend countless hours of incessant toil, torture and turmoil in exuding that pretended moment of felicity. In many an Indian family, the child’s talent to shine and spring becomes the raison d’etre of an obdurate parent, who might stoop to unimaginable levels of coercion and threat.

The second is that I am not wholly confident that the Judges of Talent have any justifiable right to foretell imminent success and fame. This is on two grounds—I cast fairly obvious aspersions on the quality/motives of the judges themselves—most find themselves on the public screen for reasons rather distinct from their own expertise ; and their ability to prognosticate is trammelled by their biases and prejudices. To be fair, it would be near impossible to anyone not to belong to the latter, but what about the first ? While I have hitherto failed to divine what a sampler of pulchritude would be waiting for/balking at ( even there, it is something arcane called inner Frooti ) , I find it media presence can accord credence to folks singularly inadequate themselves.

A third would be the possible slouch in the gait and droop in the shoulder of someone who has not made it. I do think that self-esteem is the only asset one can carry to adulthood and if that is left open to be bruised and battered then it doesn’t augur very well for the nation. There are innumerable tales of courage and success of people who have battled all odds and who have never ventured near any hunt.



A fourth, and I may be on thin ice here, is that I think that the difference between a talented one and one who is purportedly not, is thinner than we care to admit. Yes, it quite alright to decry the person who got a 99 while eulogizing one who got a 100, but that could be because we are (mistakenly) fixated on a poisoned chalice of achievement.

To close--one from the kitchen quotes of Gran as in “Uncle Ken” by Ruskin Bond
“ There is skill in everything, even in making porridge”









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