Where does talent come from? is the big question posed at a special event in Birmingham UK on Wednesday 23 July 2014.
In an age where TV schedules are dominated by talent searches, covering everything from singing and dancing, to cooking, sewing and interior design, the whole notion of 'talent' has become distorted.
Where Does Talent Come From, And How Do You Nurture It finds leading critics, economists, academics and creatives exploring the whole issue of how we identify, define and encourage talent, among them Australian writer Germaine Greer, behavioural economist and award-winning Financial Times columnist Tim Harford, and Professor of Psychology University of London, Adrian Furnham. They're joined by Geese Theatre founder John Bergman, Aspire4U's Daniella Genas, and Arts And Society's Jocelyn Cunningham, plus others.
Behavioural economist and award-winning Financial Times columnist Tim Harford
The event is chaired (and co-organised) by Rideout's Chris Johnston, who answers our questions.
Q: What are some of the key themes you'll be exploring?
We'll be looking at the time-honoured Nature v Nurture debate. More specifically we'll be looking at the whole concept of talent – what it is and where it comes from. In fact the debate has radically shifted in the last decade or so with various studies showing that really it's practice and hard work that is more influential than the genes of your parents.
Critic and writer Germaine Greer.
Q: Your event features leading commentators from the worlds of culture, economics, psychology and education, including writer Germaine Greer and economist Tim Harford - do you know what their perspectives are?
Germaine has resisted saying much in advance – but she will be very much responding to issues of the day which may likely include the 'Trojan horse' issues in Birmingham. Tim Harford will talk about how the laws of evolution and adaptation can be drawn on to engender talent. This means learning to fix our own mistakes and how we can learn from the past.
Q: Do you think that everyone has some kind of talent?
Yes – but usually people don't know what it is. Or else they disparage it; they call it a 'hobby' or they don't credit it with value.
Q: Do you think the myriad of competition-based TV shows, covering everything from singing to sewing, cookery and interior design, have affected the way we view talent?
Very much so, and the effect isn't necessarily positive. On one hand it's great that there's an 'equal opportunity' element around talent competitions. On the other hand, talent of a musical or entertainment kind gets seen as the only kind of talent there is. But talents shouldn't necessarily be associated with entertainment. Talent as a nurse may be much more valuable to society.
Q: There's a commonly held idea that 'making it' in any discipline is 20% talent, 80% luck ...
Quite a lot of recent publications set out to disprove this. Such arguments offer some different percentages. To simplify, they suggest it's around 80% hard work, 10% talent and 10% luck. Laszlo Polgar, a Hungarian chess enthusiast, set out to prove the value of hard work by rearing children to be chess champions. He started teaching them at an early age. He raised three girls all of whom became international chess champions.
Q: How do you personally define talent?
I would define talent as a potential to demonstrate a particular skill to a higher degree than the average standard. Whether that talent actually becomes realised is another matter...
So, how you do define 'talent'? Are we too hung up on seeing a talent as purely about entertainment? Can you be a talented nurse?
And is success 10% talent, 10% luck and 80% hard work?