Where’s the Hidden Talent in Your Attic?

The recent sale of an 18th century Qianlong Chinese porcelain vase for £43 million was a stunning example of how unexpected value can occasionally be realised – if you are very lucky. As an employer, you might well have exceedingly valuable talents hidden away among your workforce – if you are very lucky.

Most of us aren’t, though. It can sometimes be a challenge to realise all the positive potential, hidden and not-so-hidden, among a group of employees, and to minimise the negative potential. It’s  a challenge to me, to realise all MY positive potential, and minimise the negative, as I approach a ‘certain age’. Maybe I need brain training to reverse age-related cognitive decline. I haven’t got dementia yet, according to the MMSE, but I desperately need to improve my concentration and achievement levels, and although I’m already doing my best to exercise regularly, eat well and get enough sleep, these don’t seem to be succeeding as much as I’d like.

Talent management’ might be one way of putting it. Although we can’t all be high fliers, the majority of us probably have something valuable that is under-developed, under-utilised, under-realised; you could perhaps call it ‘Cash in the Attic’. But, in contrast to the things being valued in that TV programme, people aren’t artifacts, no matter how antique they are. We can all be creators and artists in our own way, regardless of age.

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It might be useful to relax a bit and appreciate the difference between mistakes and “risktakes” . In July 2010, Vineet Nayar talked about The Miracle of Making Mistakes and quoted Mahatma Gandhi: “freedom isn’t worth having if it doesn’t include the freedom to make mistakes”. There were many interesting respondents to that blog and someone coined the term “risktakes”. Vineet Nayar’s August 2010 blog, The Power of “Risktakes” made the distinction clear:

“A mistake is an error in action or calculation caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, or insufficient knowledge. Risk is the exposure to the chance of injury or loss, the chance that the actual return might be different than the one expected. Thus, a risktake is an error — but not one caused by carelessness or insufficient knowledge. Its possibility has been foreseen, calculated, and accepted.”

The idea of a risktake is powerful because it means you don’t beat yourself up about something that didn’t quite go according to plan. You made a plan, you took the risk – and it didn’t pay off. So try again!

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