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21.01.2011 It is not talent, it’s mindset

The reason why people either perform or do not is often considered a magical talent, often innate or delivered like a gift. There is a book about all of that by Geoff Colvin called Talent is Overrated and the idea is discussed in article by David Dobbs “How to be a genius”. I admit that there is controversy around the subject. Some consider the idea of equal possibilities self-helpish. It has been said that some children are simply incapable to learn equally at an early age and we are not going there right now. I read the book as a software professional and I think that in my environment it is healthy to assume true that there is no significant concept of talent at play in the way people perform.

As a side order I read Mindset by Carol Dweck. That one is a book that separates people into two inherently different mindsets that make or break the individual’s capability to be successful. Those two are referred to as the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed one is based on the assumption that most skills are something that you innately either have or don’t and there is nothing or little to do about it. The growth mindset builds on top of the assumption that you need to fail to learn and a simple failure should not define you.

From the perspective of a Scrum Master I can only think where a team is headed if you consider the skill set of your team a constant. How would you ever increase your velocity? Taking a different approach keeps me trying harder:

What is behind the assumed talent? Colvin calls it deliberate practice. The best of the best take the time to practice and concentrate on the methods that pay off. Looking back, I have done that a lot. However I do not know any learning techniques whatsoever. I have learned my bit while working towards a goal with a flow. I do not remember any of the painful repetition and I have surely forgot some of my intermediate failures leading to good results. That makes me wonder the concept of unconscious deliberate. I think that is what is often called luck. By feeling passion towards what I do, I collaterally have distracted myself from all the pain the practicing would have caused me and as a result I feel lucky. That’s not a bad trade-off. I wonder what could be achieved by being a notch more deliberate.