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Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else [Paperback]

Geoff Colvin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Nov 2008
What if everything you know about raw talent, hard work, and great performance is wrong? Few, if any, of the people around you are truly great at what they do. But why aren't they? Why don't they manage businesses like Jack Welch or Andy Grove, play golf like Tiger Woods or play the violin like Itzhak Perlman? Asked to explain why a few people truly excel, most of us offer one of two answers: hard work or a natural talent. However, scientific evidence doesn't support the notion that specific natural talents make great performers. In one of the most popular Fortune articles in years, Geoff Colvin offered new evidence that top performers in any field - from Tiger Woods and Winston Churchill to Warren Buffett and Jack Welch - are not determined by their inborn talents. Greatness doesn t come from DNA but from practice and perseverance honed over decades.And not just plain old hard work, but a very specific kind of work. The key is how you practice, how you analyze the results of your progress and learn from your mistakes, that enables you to achieve greatness. Now Colvin has expanded his article with much more scientific background and real-life examples. He shows that the skills of business negotiating deals, evaluating financial statements, and all the rest obey the principles that lead to greatness, so that anyone can get better at them with the right kind of effort. Even the hardest decisions and interactions can be systematically improved. This new mind-set, combined with Colvin's practical advice, will change the way you think about your job and career and will inspire you to achieve more in all you do.

Frequently Bought Together

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else + The Talent Code: Greatness isn't born. It's grown + The Little Book of Talent
Price For All Three: 22.37

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing Ltd (6 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Welsh
  • ISBN-10: 1857885198
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857885194
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,351 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

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. 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

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, Fortune's senior editor-at-large, is one of America's most respected journalists. He lectures widely and is the regular lead moderator for the Fortune Global forum. A frequent television guest, Colvin appears daily on the CBS Radio Network, reading seven million listeners every week. He co-anchored Wall Street Week on PBS for three years.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
91 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliberate practice stretches you 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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic content, could be written better 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking moments 24 Dec 2011
By Melvin
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Telling examination of the power of practicing 17 May 2010
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Author Geoff Colvin rejects the popular notion that the genius of a Tiger Woods, a Mozart or a Warren Buffett is inborn uniquely to only a few individuals. He cites research that refutes the value of precocious, innate ability and he provides numerous examples of the intensely hard work that high achievement demands. Best performers' intense, "deliberate practice" is based on clear objectives, thorough analysis, sharp feedback, and layered, systematic work. getAbstract finds that Colvin makes his case clearly and convincingly. He shows readers how to use hard work and deliberate practice to improve their creative achievements, their work and their companies. The author's argument about the true nature of genius is very engaging, but, in the end, he makes it clear that the requirements of extraordinary achievement remain so stringent that society, after all, turns out to have very few geniuses. Colvin admits that the severe demands of true, deliberate practice are so painful that only a few people master it, but he also argues that you can benefit from understanding the nature of great performance. Perhaps, he says, the real gift of genius is the capacity for determined practice. You can improve your ability to create and innovate once you accept that even talent isn't a free ticket to great performance. It takes work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Half and half
The first half of the book was insightful and informative, the second half was a waste of time and I couldn't wait to put it down.
Published 9 days ago by M. Roper
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth read !
So interesting ! Very good made me think a lot and laugh a lot. Very light hearted but awesome read.
Published 16 days ago by Charlotte
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read if you're into this sort of stuff.
I like this book very much, i mean the basic premis is that if you work hard you'll achieve results. Hell our parents have been telling us that forever! Read more
Published 5 months ago by Raul Endymion
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good book, with highly recommended
Great book, really easy to read and fall, would have a recommend this to anyone who's interested in productivity and talent management
Published 7 months ago by derek
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent insight
A must-read for anyone who wishes to make the most of their lives, or their kids' lives. Also read Mathew Syed's "Bounce".
Published 9 months ago by W. A. Tapley
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
Hammers home the concept that deliberate practice is required to become great, "knowbody is born great", he also talks about passion & desire which is something i have in... Read more
Published 11 months ago by marcus smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
An inspiring read, daring you to push a little harder and do a little more. Although many will feel they might never become truly great, this book reassures the few who will and... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Bacon
5.0 out of 5 stars A really thought provoking book.
I found this book highly interesting and it has made me rethink how people reach the top. Although difficult to relate to my boring every day life!
Published 15 months ago by Roakes
5.0 out of 5 stars SIMPLY BRILLIANT
During my life I have read many excellent information books. This one rates at or near the very top. Read more
Published 15 months ago by R. Steele
5.0 out of 5 stars Hey! It puts the cats among the pigeon WHERE TALENT ID IS CONCERNED!
I used this book as back ground reading while researching my literature review for an assignment (BSc Sport performance) regarding talent identification. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Olmec
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