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Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else Paperback – 6 Nov 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing Ltd (6 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857885198
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857885194
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 1.8 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A fascinating study of great achievers from Mozart to Tiger Woods, and he has brilliantly highlighted the fact that great effort equals great success. Talent Is Overrated is not only inspiring but enlightening. It's a terrific read all the way through.' —Donald Trump

'Excellent.' —The Wall Street Journal

'Provocative.' —Time

'A profoundly important book. With clarity and precision, Geoff Colvin exposes one of the fundamental misconceptions of modern life - that our ability to excel depends on innate qualities. Then, drawing on an array of compelling stories and stacks of research, he reveals the true path to high performance - deliberate practice fueled by intrinsic motivation. This is a rare business book that will prompt you to think and inspire you to act.' —Daniel H Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

'Colvin convincingly argues that top performers in business as well as in sports, in science and in the arts owe their success to the intense practice of key skills rather than to some unique genius.' —Newsweek

'Mr Colvin reassures us that the techniques for greatness can be learnt easily.' —The Times

'The core principle underlying Geoff Colvin's new book is that hard work pays. Indeed, Colvin gives all of us mortals hope.' —Luke Johnson in Management Today

'Geoff Colvin has done all of us a great service... this gem will be my pick for the best business books of the year. It's a brilliant piece of work, and it deserves to be studied by anyone involved in human development.' —The Leadership Challenge

'What an exciting book! Talent is Overrated explains where tomorrow's business champions will really come from. Read it - it is truly research based. It's a real breakthrough.' --Ram Charan, coauthor of Execution

'I rejoice! In this amply researched, adroitly reasoned, and lucently written book, Geoff Colvin democratizes the potentiality to be a success - in any field. Even if you didn't talk to the baby nurses the moment you were born, write a sonata before you were two, or create a global lemonade-stand business in grammar school, you have the potential to be a great orator, a master composer, or a Jack Welch. If you have the urge, go for it! Geoff tells you how to get there, and what he says comports totally with my own experiences in sports, law, and business.' —Herb Kelleher, cofounder and chairman, Southwest Airlines

'Geoff Colvin takes us on a tour de force to understanding exceptional performance; using the arts, science, and business, his book shows us how some humans are Olympian in their achievements. The book is packed with useful insights and ultimately a 'mirror test,' two profound questions for readers pondering their own potential for exceptional performance: What do you want? And what do you believe? This book opens you to deep self-reflection.' --Noel Tichy, coauthor (with Warren Bennis) of Judgment; professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

What an exciting book! Talent Is Overrated explains where tomorrow's business champions will really come from. Read it-it is truly research based. It's a real breakthrough. --Ram Charan, coauthor of Execution

About the Author

Geoff Colvin is Fortune's senior editor-at-large and is also the author of The Upside of the Downturn. He has served as moderator of the Fortune Global Forum, where he has interviewed Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Herb Kelleher, Peter Drucker and other business legends. Colvin graduated Harvard cum laude with a B.A. in Economics, and received his MBA from New York University's Stern School.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. T. Davies on 19 Aug 2010
Format: Paperback
The content of this fantastic, it shows how top performers have a certain set of conditions and methods of practice that allow them to improve and outperform their peers. Colvin talks about the concept of deliberate practice, which is a very specific way of developing your abilities.

If there is a problem, it is because it falls between 2 stools. It is quite entertaining but a singular topic is never engrossing enough to make it as enjoyable as a great popular science book such as Blink or Freakonomics, nor is the subject as complex or as thought provoking as something like the Black Swan.

This could lead the book down a more self improvement orientated route, however, Colvin doesn't really throw himself into this. He sets out observations about elite performers but not once does he talk to you enthusiastically about how this could affect your life. He does set out all the ingredients of deliberate practice but this is spread over about 100 pages of the book so if you wanted a cut out and keep framework to deliberate practice then you will have to fish through these and make it yourself.

Being editor of fortune magazine, he does dedicate a few chapters to how businesses can benefit from deliberate practice, and maybe this is the point of the book, however if you are not concerned about this then skip these chapters, the book is still very readable for a non business person.

I have given it 4 stars for a reason, despite its shortcomings. The understanding of the content of this book is vital to anyone who wants to become exceptional in any field, the fact that it is not quite presented in the ideal format is of little consequence.

It is readable, it is quite entertaining but more importantly, if you apply the principles in this book it could be life changing.
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92 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Coert Visser on 26 Nov 2008
Format: Paperback
I intended to write a review of Malcolm Galdwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success but I came across this book and I was surprised to find I like this book more. The book not only debugs the talent myth, the believe that talent is a dominant factor in high achievement (which Gladwell has done too in several publications). It also operationalizes the concept of deliberate practice. This concept was introduced by Anders Ericsson, a leading researcher in the field of expertise development. Colvin explains that deliberate practice can be described by these five characteristics:

1. It's designed specifically to improve performance
2. It can be repeated a lot
3. Feedback on results is continously available
4. It's highly demanding mentally
5. It isn't much fun

Deliberate practice is hard and not particularly enjoyable because it means you are focusing on improving areas in your performance that are not satisfactory. Thus, it stretches you. If you'll be able to do deliberate practice, you'll benefit by becoming better. Especially if you'll be able to keep it up for extremely long periods of time. Much research has shown that top performance in a wide array of fields is always based on an extreme amount of deliberate practice. It is hard to find a top performer in any field that has not been working extremely hard to get there. What does 'extremely hard' mean? Well, researchers Herbert Simon and Allen Newel used to say that you need at least 10 years before reaching top performance. Now, researchers have refined their estimate, saying coming up with a figure of 10000 hours. An interesting thing about deliberate practice is that its effect is cumulative. You can compare it with a road you're traveling on. Any distance you have travelled on that road counts.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Melvin on 24 Dec 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've got mixed feelings about this book. The author deals with various topics, examples and cases from fields like sports, business and arts in order to find out what the ingredients of exceptional performance are. This overview doesn't result in a coherent analysis, let alone model, to answer the question.

Some of the chapters are mildly interesting but only a few concepts, that Colvin briefly touches upon, really appealed to me:
- The concept of metacognition
- The Whiz Kids that Ford brought in after World War II to drastically increase their performance
- The dream team that Herb Brooks put together for the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980
- The conclusion that legendary top executive teams are nearly always pairs, who developed deep trust over many years and produced outstanding results.

All in all this doesn't live up to its promise but has its thought provoking moments.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER on 5 Nov 2008
Format: Paperback
Colvin set out to answer this question: "What does great performance require?" In this volume, he shares several insights generated by hundreds of research studies whose major conclusions offer what seem to be several counterintuitive perspectives on what is frequently referred to as "talent." (See Pages 6-7.) In this context, I am reminded of Thomas Edison's observation that "vision without execution is hallucination." If Colvin were asked to paraphrase that to indicate his own purposes in this book, my guess (only a guess) is that his response would be, "Talent without deliberate practice is latent" and agrees with Darrell Royal that "potential" means "you ain't done it yet." In other words, there would be no great performances in any field (e.g. business, theatre, dance, symphonic music, athletics, science, mathematics, entertainment, exploration) without those who have, through deliberate practice developed the requisite abilities.

It occurs to me that, however different they may be in almost all other respects, athletes such as Cynthia Cooper, Roger Federer, Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Lorena Ochoa, Candace Parker, Michael Phelps, Vijay Singh, and Tiger Woods "make it look so easy" in competition because their preparation is so focused, rigorous, and thorough. Obviously, they do not win every game, match, tournament, etc. Colvin's point (and I agree) is that all great performers "make it look so easy" because of their commitment to deliberate practice, often for several years before their first victory. In fact, Colvin cites a "ten-year rule" widely endorsed in chess circles (attributed to Herbert Simon and William Chase) that "no one seemed to reach the top ranks of chess players without a decade or so of intensive study, and some required much more time.
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