Deficiencies, Benefits and the Real Winners in the New War for Talent

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In his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, author Malcolm Gladwell spends a lot of time talking about how presumed deficiencies can turn out to be benefits when viewed through a different lens.

Take the case of dyslexia.

What for many, in a world of data overload in written form, can be an absolutely devastating obstacle to basic academic survival, also yields surprising abilities in creativity, unconventional information processing, and verbal skills. Yet the dropout rate of dyslexics is 35 percent, twice the national average. It’s estimated that 20 percent of the workplace is dyslexic.

Why the happiest students at Harvard are athletes

Gladwell also writes about some of the happiest students at Harvard. It’s not who you’d expect. It’s the athletes that Harvard has a policy of recruiting in at academic standards below their normal admissions criteria – their “happy-bottom-quarter” policy.

The thinking is that no matter how able a student population, there will always be a bottom quarter of the class. Who will be happy with that status? The answer, they found is students who are resilient, who define themselves in broader terms than academic success, and who have the discipline to overcome obstacles — all things collegiate athletes have in spades.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog on introversion in an extroverted world based on the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. A third of the population is introverted, but the world is geared toward the extrovert. The quiet powers of reasoning, problem-solving and critical analysis are often bowled over.

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A changing concept of true talent

Shifts in demographics, globalization, constant access to information and continuous change have rendered us living in a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Survival in a VUCA world depends on ability to adapt to sometimes inhospitable conditions.

If the playing field is changing, shouldn’t our concept of the player change?

What does an ever-changing, unpredictable environment tell us about the type of leader who will be successful navigating it? An introverted, dyslexic athlete? Quite possibly.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

Barbara Milhizer, CCP, SPHR is a partner at PeopleResults, a human capital consultancy focusing on change, organization, talent and communications/new media. Barbara’s background includes over 15 years of HR with key leadership roles in rewards & recognition and talent strategy at both Accenture and PeopleResults. Contact her at bmilhizer@people-results.com.

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