This Guest paper was originally published in the January, 2016 PM World Journal.
With some updating of the text, it is reproduced here with the permission of the author.
Copyright Stacy Goff, © 2016.
Published here June 2016

PART 1 | Our First Insights into the Stairway to Talent
A "Driving" Example of Talent Progression | Achieving Performance
Role Competences: Another Dimension for Talent Development
Talent Management Area 3: Managing and Retaining Talent
Maintaining Team Motivation and Morale | A Talented, Appropriate, Recovery Action

Last month I talked about talent acquisition. Now the question is: Can people develop talent in others? My answer is: Yes, as long as your people already fulfill some of those innate aspects of Talent I mentioned earlier. Talent alone is not enough; Charles Koch, the billionaire investor, says that Values are even more important than Talent — he judges Values higher than Talent in job seekers. So yes, given the right potential, you can develop talent. Whose job is this? I believe that the answer depends on each situation, but it is usually some combination of Resource Managers, Project Managers, and Human Resources Managers.

Our First Insights into the Stairway to Talent

In the late 1970s, I sought to improve decision-making through use of management information. I applied a concept from an article I had read. I introduced the Taxonomy of Data, shown at the right. I presented it to managers, to associations, and other audiences, in the late 1970s. I had one problem: Note the gap between Knowledge and Wisdom (in that era, our ultimate objective). I post a bit more about this Taxonomy of Data in my blog: The context is a Knowledge Management article, with recent references to the topic by the legendary Max Wideman.

For a dozen years, I failed to find ways to close that gap between Knowledge and Wisdom. Then, in the 1990s, when Knowledge Management (KM) emerged, I had an insight. The KM movement defined two types of knowledge: Explicit and Tacit, as shown in the diagram at left. I had focused on Explicit Knowledge. Takeuchi and Nonaka, in a great book[5], showed how transfer of Tacit Knowledge held the secret to closing that gap. This insight verified everything I knew to be true about learning, especially for adults.

The Role of Training in Talent Development

Training (or Learning, as I call it) has a clear role in developing talent. It helps develop the Knowledge foundation to Talent Development, but it does not instill talent. Why not? Different roles have different learning needs, different levels of current grasp, and different expectations from their learning. I have found a proper competence assessment to be the smartest way to assure that improved business results come from any training. A smart follow-on is to understand the Learning Objectives (learner outcomes) for each competence, and identify the level of outcome you require. Bloom's Taxonomy, as revised in 2001[6] is very useful in this targeting.

The actual training must be well structured to maximize its potential. It must move beyond "the talking head, pedagogical lecturer," to include learner-centered in-session and post-session application. For example, in the classroom there must be exercises, or even better, case studies, scenarios and simulations. Post-class, there must be on-the-job application, ideally with coaching and guidance, on real-world problems. Yet, while it is an essential starting point, training does not deliver Talent. There is another challenge to the knowledge-without-application trap, that too few people understand: New Knowledge, consistently and properly applied, moves to Skill. Knowledge that is not applied has a half-life of two weeks.

Talent Transfer versus Business Impact

So yes, the right training can indeed help build the foundation for learning. The challenge, as shown in the model at right, is moving beyond short-term acquisition of facts and knowledge; minding the gap, as it were. This is an important thing to understand, because the greatest benefits come from the application items on the model, Skill: Attitudes, Competence, and Performance.

Note that I have added two axes to the model introduced earlier. The vertical axis, Transfer Difficulty, reflects how hard the Talent level is to transfer. On the horizontal axis, the items below the gap have very little Business Performance Impact.

Readers who are involved with Learning will recognize some of the new levels on the chart. For example, levels 3, 2 and 1 reflect the familiar ASK items. These are the Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge, the focus of effective learning. For those who are familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy (the 2001 version is more relevant for Adult learners), it builds upon the ASK items, adds measures, and moves into beginning aspects of Competence, covering levels 1-4 on the chart. Finally, the model evokes Kirkpatrick's Class Evaluation method, which progresses from classroom "smile sheets, through on-the-job application, to Performance; reflecting levels 2-5. The resulting model spans from raw data to business performance, and provides a roadmap for talent development.


1. IPMA® is the International Project Management Association, the world's first professional Project Management association. Learn more about IPMA at
2. See our 2006 IPMA China World Congress paper, Distinguishing PM Competence in Training and Development, in the Articles section of the website
3. PMI® is a US-based, global professional association for project managers. Learn more about PMI at
4. IIBA® is International Institute of Business Analysis, "the Voice of the Business Analysis Profession." See them at
5. A great book, The Knowledge Creating Company, by Takeuchi and Nonaka, goes a long ways in helping to understand the leap from explicit to tacit knowledge, and the methods for transferring between them.
6. Bloom 2001 refers to A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing, by Lorin W. Anderson & David R. Krathwohl, an intern 45 years earlier for the original 1956 Bloom's Taxonomy edition. Published by Longman, 2001. All trademarks are the property of their registered owners.
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