Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Talent Myth

During the past decade, there was a belief that talents are important for the future of a business or a country. Common sense and practical experience were discarded in the "war for talent". Talent was richly rewarded at the expense of the ordinary workers. Here is an interesting story about a well known company that pursued this strategy to an extreme. It brings useful lessons of people who belief in this strategy.


Anonymous said...

If you are young, believe in yourself and your own talents. Develop and groom yourself.

Don't wait for godfather to "recognise" your talent and "groom" you for bigger and better things.

You don't need anybody's permission to succeed.

If Singapore does not have an opportunity for you, look overseas. And remember to bring your parents with you. It's the only way for your parents to take out their CPF money before they die.

If you are middle age and older, "groom" your children's innate talent. Become an expert on your own children. Develop your child's self esteem. Tell them that they are not digits.

Teach them to think global in their search for happiness and opportunities. Help them research emigration procedures of short-listed countries.

Accompany your children when they emigrate. It's the only way to get your CPF money out. Learn a new way of life with your children.

Australia's immigration policy has always been very non-elitist. For a very long time now, hairdressers have been getting more points than lawyers and accountants. If you are a blue collared Singaporean, you stand a better chance of getting accepted by Australia than a graduate. But don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself.

Think outside the box.

I met a 42 year old taxi driver who is planning to emigrate to Chiang Mai, Thailand. He and his friends have done their homework and figured their CPF money will go very far there. They plan to start a car workshop business there.

Leave Singapore to the Foreign Talents. Foreign Talents are not stupid. They will eventually learn the same way we long time Singaporeans have learned.

Anonymous said...

Don't give up on Singapore yet.

After giving up your Singapore citizenship, wait a few years and return as a Foreign Talent!

I can't give out names, so have to keep this vague. But if you check, one of the local universities have or had a person who was formerly a Singaporean. This person was recruited to return to Singapore as a Foreign Talent to head up one of the local universities.

Anonymous said...

Yes! thats right! leave and return as a FT.. its the best way.
I tried to do this 8 years ago.
I have 2 sons and I disagree with NS.
I thought: why have my 2 sons run around the jungle and feed the mosquitoes and get malaria while some FT & PRs are taking up jobs and gaining 2 years head start?

I had planned to leave with my family and let my sons study overseas. After that they can return to Singapore as an expat!
We can still visit relatives, shop and get GST rebates! Best of all: to be treated as guests!

Unfortunately, my plans could not be launched. Insufficient funds and the other country had changed the criteria for migrants.

The other country had higher income tax rates, overloaded medical facilities and racial divisions. But I still want to go.
Why? because it is a country and not a commercial organ like Singapore.

It is a great place to earn an income, but a horrible place to grow.

The education system works to supply workers to industries that the administrators believe to be correct. It is not liberal enough.

Achieva Links said...

Scholars are deem to be talents in the eyes of the mass ? Who created this perception ? Scholars are generally smart but they are not street smart. I travel around to many developing countries and I reckon that they have a lot of talented people in the street running business. Who created this opportunity since they are poor to attend school or they simply not interested in books. Well their government has created a space for them to expose their potential. Over here if you did not attend school then when you want to apply for license to operate a business, its kinda a real "eye opener". Know what, you have to pay a fee to get a license and start paying a high rental fee.

How can a talent be created if the government only cares about "money"? Created a costly environment which rental are high and you must a fee is paid to the respective authorities before you can start or renew your license. If they really care, give concession to this group of non-academics talents by creating a place for them to expose their potential. Once they are successful they can be on their own. This is one way talents can be created.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr Tan,
The link does not seem to be working .....

Tan Kin Lian said...

it works okay

Anonymous said...

Different people have their opinion on what constitute "talent" - so be it.

However, some perspectives should be there when someone comments "talent was richly rewarded at the expense of the ordinary workers". Really?

Should we pay someone just because we feel obligated? Even though the job should be been done in two hours and the fellow took four hours to do and still got it wrong?

They are many undermotivated, overassuming ordinary workers in our country. Many prefer to work less for more pay (better still, don't work and still get paid), and they sit in their little armchairs and wax lyrical about how their myriad talents are being abandoned for the foreigner's, instead of earning a decent, stable living as a sales assistant. it's not even about being a road sweeper. these people don't want anything without "manager" and a name card.

Singapore is built on meritocracy, this means whoever can do the job better faster and cheaper should get the job, regardless of nationality. Suggestions of reserving jobs and minimum wages for talent and non-talent alike are anti-meritocracy.

Talent is talent and we must recognised and leverage on them. The fact that they get things done faster and cheaper means more productivity and profits for the company. So why not pay them the sky? It is not the expense of the ordinary because the ordinary are simply not working hard enough or not "there yet" in the grey matter department.

So there is a "divide", but this is how it is meant to be. Birds of the same feather flock together, the successful ones will get together and motivate each other while the less mortals will hurdle together to whine and complain.

This is life, welcome to the real world.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia has very interesting content about the meaning and origins of the word "meritocracy."

Article offers a good balance of different view points, historical and modern meritocratic practices.

Personally, I find Anonymous 1.06am's support of meritocracy too simplistic. "Methinks the lady doth protest too much - Shakespeare, Macbeth"

If meritocratic people are as good as they are made out to be, why do they need to be groomed at all? They will naturally be able to float to the top on their own merits, just like in milk, the cream always float to the top on their own.

An army is a group of men and machinery with different skill sets. Imagine an army made up of only the meritocratic generals.

Phrases like these come to mind;
"Too many Indian chiefs and not enough Indians"

"Too many cooks spoil the broth"

Truly deserving meritocratic people do not need grooming or public debates about what their salaries should be. They just go out into the world and quietly take whatever their abilities can give them.

These truly meritocratic people can range from gangsters (meritocracy of the physically strong and morally delinquent) as well as Mother Teresa and Albert Einstein types.

But of course society (it's really those in power) will act against gangsters in a one sided non-meritocratic fight against those who are physically strong and morally delinquent.

So really, the debate boils down to those in power. And the type of people they consider to be meritorious. There is nothing scientific, natural or fair about the entire process. This is what history teaches us.

Elsewhere, the Singapore Elephant Hunter wrote about reification. Maybe meritocracy is also a reification?

I look out of my window, and all I see are people. I don't see one group of people wearing a sign that says "worthy of merit" on their forheads. And another group that says "not worthy". So the distinctions are only in our human minds. So is this really an attempt at "Divide and conquer?"

Anonymous said...

When ordinary workers complain about money not enough and the "talents" are getting sky high salaries and bonuses.

But the "talents" being talented, managed to create an impression that these ordinary workers are undermotivated and overassuming.

The results are that these poor ordinary workers not only money not enough and also being humiliated as less mortals.

Anonymous said...

We should pay “talents” good salary and bonuses because these ‘talents” are more productive and help the organizations make more profit. But paying them sky high salary and bonuses will encourage them to create “innovative” ideals of making huge and quick profit which inevitably are not sustainable and even harmful to the public.

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