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Understanding the Talent Wave

Coaching and mentoring guru David Clutterbuck has been collecting research evidence for Talent and Succession practices.

His latest book concludes many lack evidence or may even be damaging, and suggests this could explain why diversity at the bottom of organisations is not matched at the top. “We need to approach this as a complex adaptive system” he told Ci. “That means less emphasis on talent processes, and more on equipping people to manage their own careers.”


I agree that we need to approach developing talent as a complex adaptive system. Unfortunately, there is one force that is neither complex nor adaptive but is powerful and enduring and has an enormous impact on developing talent. That force, at least in the US, is law. Laws are passed, often in a piecemeal fashion, to correct apparent wrongs — sometimes those wrongs are systemic and sometimes unique instances. The laws are nonetheless laws, and have to be followed.

None of that implies that we cannot develop talent fairly and effectively, only that, perhaps, developing talent in light of the fact that we are doing so within the interactions of complex adaptive systems (and the law, a complicated, non-adaptive system) is a critical skill for today’s leaders.

Written by Guy Higgins, July 12, 2012

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