Talent from Then to Now
In ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman times, Talent was a term for measures,
often related to value. You may recall historic mentions of Forty Talents of Silver,
either in Akhenaten's Tomb (on a translated copper scroll) or other sources. As
often used, a talent was the weight of the water or wine contents of an amphora
- about 60 pounds (a significant amount!). Even then, a broader definition was
forming. Dictionary.com notes: "a power of mind or body considered as given
to a person for use and improvement." citing the Bible's New Testament.
Today, regardless of the venue, talent is a term that describes either a person's
natural abilities, or their competence, or both, whether that person is an actor,
a politician, a parent, or a project engineer. In fact, the new 4th edition of
IPMA Individual Competence Baseline
lists the Talents of Project and Program Managers, even more valuable than
the silver of old. Well, it calls them the Competence Elements, but we all know
they are Talents!
the new millennium, we are obsessed with Talent, an increasingly popular attribute;
Talent Management has spread across multiple sectors and industries. I see interest
in the topic in general management, academia, human resources, line managers,
and project executives. Typically, Talent Management includes Talent Acquisition,
Talent Development, and Talent Retention, as shown in the diagram at the right.
What Is Talent?
I also see the word talent often in the business-related press. Over the last 15 years books, magazines, websites and articles have used it frequently. Increasingly, talent appears in everything from Human Resources to strategic planning. For projects, "talent" is a nicer label for the quality and experience of people you and I seek to help our projects succeed. The term is preferable, compared to staff, resources, or even team members.
Talent, from our perspective, is the right combination of innate abilities, plus the knowledge, skills, attitudes, experience and competence needed to deliver performance for a specific situation. In the workplace, talent ranges from multiple intelligences and interpersonal skills, to "street-smarts," savvy, and other factors. In to-day's most successful enterprises, talent directly relates to Competence, a topic about which I frequently publish002E Of course, competence is a crucial step on the path to Performance, the goal we all seek to achieve. Where do you find this talent? Context considerations, such as the nature of your industry or your enterprise culture can make it difficult to transfer talent from other environments. The search can be difficult indeed.
is the International Project Management Association, the world's first professional
Project Management association. Learn more about IPMA at www.ipma.world.
2. See our 2006 IPMA China World Congress paper, Distinguishing PM Competence in Training and Development, in the Articles section of the ProjectExperts.com website