Unlocking the Talent Puzzle

There are two parts to the talent puzzle
  1. Developing Talent
  2. Demand for Talent

They operate like the two sides of the same coin.

1. Developing Talent

The dictionary definition of talent is -- "natural aptitude or skill." Don't be misled by the word "natural" here, as you and I know that talent can and should be developed. There are cases where someone is born with some amazing talent (child prodigies) but they are exceptions rather than the rule. The rest of us have to work on our skills throughout our lives.

2. Demand for Talent

Developing talent in vacuum will lead you nowhere. A gold mine that can never be discovered has zero value. It's a best kept secret that has zero upside. Demand for your talent rarely happens organically. That's why they use a term called "starving artists." They are good at what they do but they are not good at telling the world about how good they are. You better not be one of them because it's painful to say the least.

An Approach to Unlocking the Talent Puzzle

Opher Brayer of Swing Management, who I work closely with and have deep respect for highlighted the talent puzzle. I am outlining the approach to unlock the talent puzzle based on reflecting on a series of conversations with him over the last few months.

1. Develop Talent with Value and Relevance as the Foundation


The playground for professionals is the marketplace. The marketplace will pay a premium for your talent as long as it is:
a. Relevant | meaningful to what's happening in the marketplace
b. Value | delivers measurable returns better than available options at a comparable price point.

Marketplace is always shifting so to stay relevant, you need to keep upgrading yourself.

There are new players in the marketplace and the existing players keep upgrading themselves. So ensure that you provide the right value, you need to keep upgrading yourself.

2. Design the First Demand Engine


Your first demand engine is where the rubber meets the road. It is the where the marketplace pays something meaningful in exchange for the relevant value. If you are a writer, it could be hefty advance for a book deal. If you are a speaker, it could be an opportunity to speak professionally on a big stage. If you are an entrepreneur, it could be that venture funding you were looking for or better yet, winning that big deal with a marquee customer you were courting for a while.

3. Expand the Number of Demand Engines


The name of the game is leverage. Jim Rohn said it right -- "Every disciplined effort has multiple rewards." Developing talent is your disciplined effort and designing the first demand engine is the first reward. If you stop at the first demand engine, you generally have a demand to effort ratio of 1. The way to make that ratio better is to design and activate multiple demand engines.

The Balancing Act

As you unlock the talent puzzle, you are on a fine balancing act -- all the time. On one end, you need to keep developing your talent with the foundation of value and relevance. On the other end, you need to go about designing, developing and deploying various demand engines to match the talent.