Thursday, August 04, 2011

THE ORIGIN OF "TALENT"


To attract, retain, and obtain the most from Awesome Talent, organizations will need to offer an Awesome Place to Work, a place where people not only get paid their due, but also get to initiate and execute Great Things. A place where they can add Awesome Entries to their WOW Project Portfolio and add equity to their Brand Called You.

–Tom Peters



The Age of The Employee is over. Gone. Get used to it.

The New Economy is about a lot of things and “jobs” isn’t one of them. Companies don’t hire employees anymore; they hire time or talent. That means they hire hours or skills. You don’t want to sell your time – too many people will gladly do what you do cheaper. So all that leaves is selling skills, which takes talent.

I was recently listening to an audiobook by Peter Saccio of Dartmouth and from him I learned the origin of the modern use of the word “talent.” It was once just a unit of money, like the peso or the dollar. However, the Parable of the Talents eventually changed that.

You may remember the story from the Book of Matthew: A rich man goes on a journey and entrusts five talents to one servant, two to another and one to a third. When the man returns, he finds that the first servant invested wisely and doubled the money. The second servant did likewise. However, the servant with just one talent buried it for safekeeping and thus returned just the lone talent.

Jesus’s conclusion does not offer any sympathy for the third servant. The first two are praised and given more responsibility, but the third is not just criticized, but the boss instructs the others to “…throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Yikes.

As I say, our use of the word “talent” derives from this parable because it was clear that Jesus was talking not about money, but about making use of one’s gifts. To ignore (bury) your gift (talents) is not some minor offense – it makes you unworthy of being in the company of those who know how to build upon theirs.

If you needed any further encouragement to discover and redouble your talents, there you have it. And, looking a bit further, what does it say about being the boss? The boss in the story doesn’t say to the third man, “Oh well, you did the best you could.” And he doesn’t say, “Let me sign you up for a training course.” No… it’s straight to the gnashing of teeth.

We often hear the expression “God-given talent” and if we think of talents as a gift from God – a literal birth-day gift -- it’s good to remember that when the Big Guy stops by your place to say hello, if he doesn’t see the gift out and being used, He gets testy.

3 comments:

James Monro said...

While understanding your premise, how do you get around the use of the "Money" and the fact that gold was commonly referred to in talents?

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