In a recent post I wrote that education is the process of “learning to be. It’s an enculturation as we slowly grasp how things operate within communities of practice. In time we discover ourselves and our place within those communities.” (Read the entire post here.) This development is crucial as a young person discovers her or his talent(s) on the path to maximizing the potential within.
Recently I read Marcus Buckingham’s First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. It’s essentially a meta-analysis of The Gallup Organization’s interviews of over 80,000 managers in over 400 companies. The book stresses many points which counter common thinking and practice. For instance, Buckingham says that a great manager does not treat everyone the same.
In a rather obvious point, Buckingham talks about how one of a great manager’s most important roles is identifying and nurturing talent. Synthesizing various responses, he offers a definition of talent as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied” (71). The initial obviousness of this echoes Ken Robinson’s definition of creativity: “coming up with original ideas that have value.” Both are simple on the surface, but they can become quite complex as you begin unpacking the implications.
Things become more interesting when Buckingham breaks this generalization into three subsets:
· “Striving talents explain the why of a person.” Where does a person draw motivation? What urges drive him on? What is her passion?
· “Thinking talents explain the how of a person.” What are her thought processes? How does he make a decision?
· “Relating talents explain the who of a person.” How do people interact and relate with each other? What ingredients from the foundation of trust? (85)
Consider the implications of this. Within any single individual, they are complicated. Throw another person into the mix. Imagine a classroom full of young people just beginning to learn about themselves, let alone develop a sense of empathy. At the most basic level, as Buckingham points out, it’s “why any one type of education is doomed to fail” (115). It’s why a great manager does not treat everyone the same.
Along the same vein, education is not really about what is taught. It’s about what is learned. Yes, certain curricula—both content and skills—are essential. But learning about one’s talents is what truly matters. The greatest educators understand that, per Buckingham, “Self-discovery is the guiding force for a healthy career” (194). I would add, a healthy life.