Malcom Gladwell, the author of Outliers: The Story of Success, is credited with saying that “Talent is the desire to practice.”, and I tend to agree.
In his article in The New Yorker on the subject, Gladwell claims that instead of promoting raw talent, regardless of qualification, we should instead create /systems/. While I like the general theory of systems, too often in practice it turns into scripts and rules that, in the words of Mr. Barry Schwartz “prevent disaster, but guarantee mediocrity.”
In other words, I agree with the data gathered by Mr. Gladwell, but not his conclusion. There must be a third way.
What if, instead of raw talent or systems, we focused on building skills in our people through conscious practice?
Four thousand years ago, the author of proverbs wrote that Iron Sharpens Iron, and, ask such, man can sharpen man.
Some people won’t improve, or even meet minimum standards. I would not want to “inflict help” on them; I would want to avoid hiring them. A small number of rules can create some visibility and control for a very small price. And, to those that are amenable to it, conscious practice can bring real improvement.
I’m inclined to think it’s a little of all three.