from david brooks; “we construct ourselves through our behavior”

For well over a century now, innovation is thought to have been the work of the lone – and often lonely – genius. While true in all fields of endeavour, this seems especially true in business circles. And even as we, who do the work of innovation (in business), find that the world is tipping: from the management of all things – to the innovation of all things. Business leaders are strangely attracted to, and operate within, this idea, this myth, which persistently trips up their sincere efforts to build a common sense, and to establish frameworks for plain dealing.

Why do we persist with the caricature, of say Thomas Edison as the solitary inventor? Especially, when we know that he hired a crew of nearly a hundred inventors, housed them in a sweatshop, and then claimed much of their intellectual property – as his own.

David Brooks argues that our misplaced faith, will be ‘pierced‘ by much of the knowledge contained in these two books:

1) The Talent Code  by Daniel Coyle, and
2) Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.

When I taught Industrial Design, the single idea that I spent most of my time preaching (and practicing) is neatly summarized here, by Brooks: 

“What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had — the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills. Mozart played a lot of piano at a very young age, so he got his 10,000 hours of practice in early and then he built from there.

The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.”

In summary, Brooks argues that genetics are no match for deliberate and tireless practice – and tutelage. 

Yet, my eyes are drawn to his the use of the word democratic. Mostly, because this particular frontier of design thinking interests me in general. And curiously because, the archetype Brooks uses to illustrate his point is widely known as the very model of individual genius. Tiger Woods is no team player.

What are the factors involved in managing a team that is capable of genius? Say, more in the model of coaching Gretzky, Messier, and Kurri back in the day. Not as solo performers, but as components of an integrated and interdependent whole. We need to arrive at a model (of practice and tutelage) that reliably build a more athletic innovation team.  Knowing from experience that they tend to be made of out of disparate parts; each one working from different logics. 

Perhaps Colyle and Colvin have more to say on the topic? I look forward to reading their works soon. Many of their sources like Bloom, Krathwohl and Kolb are familiar to me, yet I look forward to finding insights to how we might construct a corporate self through common behaviors.

 

via Op-Ed Columnist – Genius – The Modern View – NYTimes.com.The Talent Code

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1 Comment

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One response to “from david brooks; “we construct ourselves through our behavior”

  1. Christian Crews

    The 10,000 hours insight has definitely echoed the halls in my home of three over-scheduled daughters.

    If you look at leaders, many of them are not great at anything else. They tend not to be the highest academic achievers or the best athletes on the team, and yet they are the class presidents and the team captains. From a very young age they’ve been putting in their 10,000 hours, not in the pursuit of individual achievement, but in leading teams to greatness.

    The best leaders do exactly as you suggest, architect and develop teams to achieve things beyond the sum of the parts. We just don’t have enough of them. There are so few opportunities for leaders to practice their craft when young. What would happen to our culture and business if more kids got to focus on leadership and get their 10,000 hours earlier in life?

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