Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book Review: Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

Critique written by Ismet Mamnoon

Talent is Overrated is a comprehensive discussion and in depth analysis of the secret to success. It is a book where Geoff Colvin carefully dissects the components of success and through research based and anecdotal evidence lays down a case for his argument that talent is over credited. He offers an alternate theory and provides evidence to support this theory. He further expounds on the implications of his theory of Deliberate Practice for individuals and for organizations.

Geoff Colvin lays the groundwork by first evaluating evidence to support the widely held beliefs about what elements contribute to success. He cites research that seeks to prove these correlations and is unable to do so. He examines the relationship between success and innate talent, and between intelligence and success. He also looks at other contributing factors such as experience and hard work. The conclusion drawn from a review of evidence presented in the book is that – The secret to outstanding success is “Deliberate practice”. “Deliberate practice is hard. But it works. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance” (Colvin, 2010, p. 7).

The book not only builds a credible case for deliberate practice, it also expounds on what deliberate practice looks like in action and how it makes a difference to the outcome. Colvin’s use of many examples of outstanding performers such as Tiger Woods, Jerry Rice and Mozart adds to the credibility of his discussion. The stories from the lives of these men and many other individuals and organizations that have used deliberate practice keeps the material relevant and engaging.

One of the key areas that the book addresses are the driving forces that provide the impetus when faced with the amount of effort that underlies deliberate practice. For this area Colvin references the work of scholars who are well known in the field of creativity, such as Csikzentmihalyi and Amabile, as he draws the conclusion that passion is the overriding force that fuels deliberate practice.

Geoff Colvin is a senior editor at Fortune magazine and also a bestseller author and presenter. His skill in the art of persuasive writing is evident throughout the book and the message is compelling. There are few books that I can credit with significantly impacting my life – this book is one of them. It has raised my personal standard for effort and the application of deliberate practice in the areas of my life where I wish to improve my chances of success. For anyone who wishes to harness their best potential in any arena – this book is a must-read.

Based on an rating scale that considers – Ease of reading, persuasiveness of the argument, evidence offered, value and relevance of the material, this book scores 5 stars on scale of 1-5.

Colvin, G. (2010). Talent is overrated: What really separates world-class performers from everybody else. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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