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Wally Bock

That's a powerfully helpful post, Steve. We're back to Drucker's original advice about strengths (talents, if you will). You build on your strengths and make weaknesses irrelevant. One way to make them irrelevant is to get "good enough," which is what probably happens with these talents.

Bret Simmons

Steve, is the research fro IDAK publicly available? If so, can you point me to it? Please forgive me, but I am always skeptical of research until I get a look at it, especially when it comes from a source that profits from its own research.

The talents, as described, really look like behaviors. And I think you are suggesting in your post that anyone can learn these behaviors, which I agree with. But there seems to be a suggetion that a talent is like a personality type.

As an individual, I like stuff like this as a way to help me understand myself and work on my own self development. But I don't want anyone looking for simplistic box to put me in. Boxes limit potential.

Very thoughtful post, Steve. Keep up the good work. Bret

Dan Erwin

I'd push the discussion back still further. Sounds to me like we're back to the old nature/nature discussion. Traditionally, testing is built on the innate strength/personality theories (including the MMPI) where nature rules the discussion (strength talents). As research methodologies have evolved and become more sophisticated, the nature orientation has lost its primacy to the nurture/environment research. There is a letter from Robert Sternberg to WSJ in regard to a fallacious article by Robert Murray of the Bell Curve--posted on my home site.

The Bell Curve was the classic exposition of nature primacy and tied to proposed governmental policies. Sometime after its publication, the APA rejected its thesis in a number of papers. The best fair summary and refutation of the entire issue is Nisbett's recent Intelligence and How to Get It. Of course, the strengths theory is highly indebted to Seligman's brilliant stuff. It's very pragmatic and I certainly don't disagree, I use it. However, it's not the total picture and doesn't claim to be.

From a pragmatic perspective, many of us don't have the luxury of playing to our strengths, and must learn to deal in highly successful fashion, with strategic weaknesses. E.G.: Very few PhDs are highly intuitive (to use MBTI lingo), they are heavily sensing. I am a highly intuitive, nearly non-sensing thinker. Guess what, a PhD with its resarch and sensing demands took me longer, but I have one.

Here's my recent post on the same subject, growing out of an astute article by Jeff Pfeffer of Stanford. I also conclude with further references for those interested.

Steve Roesler

Wally, Brett, and Dan,

Apologies for the single response; in-motion all week.

Here goes:

The foundation is quite sensible and easily observable/verifiable.

a. Like music, art, engineering, architecture, we gravitate toward that which sparks our interest. If it truly is a "match", we also bring some inherent aptitudes that are then molded through intentional development, practice, and application.

b. Not everyone is cut out to manage other people as a career. We all step up in some way in short-term situations that demand our leadership/supervision; but we don't necessarily do it really well or with a great degree of comfort, no matter how many times we do it.

c. The 30% or so of people who are genuinely inclined toward successful, effective "management as a career" can be identified as "managing" from a particular talent set that has been developed. The categories above indicate what they are.

If you think about your own management or that of others who are "career" managers, you will see the obvious: people are willing to follow them because they can be relied upon to execute, effectively, in one of those area. Eisenhower "managed by planning". Richard Branson is an initiator par excellence. And every day, there are a cadre of people who are willing to sit down and manage the performance of people in their group. Yet all 3 are different and all 3 work.

Obviously, effective managers, regardless of their strong suit, become adequate in related areas. But that isn't the core of their effectiveness; one of those categories is.

Brett, I also instantly look askance at "research" and delve deeper. In this case, I happen to know the research was done before the product was even considered was an ongoing part of a university program at UC-Davis that, years later, led to the idea for the instrument. You could contact John Bradley directly at the IDAK GROUP. John also published a book for ministry groups called "Unlocking Your Sixth Suitcase" which, I believe, has been re-published as "Discovering Your Natural Talents". This provides a context for the approach.

Dan, we don't always have the luxury of playing only to our strengths. My take: If we know what they are--then learn to become adequate in related skills that will support our efforts (think Ph.D:-), we're doing quite well and being effective.

As for being in a box: I've concluded that just about every validated instrument will provide good information upon which intelligent, discerning people can learn more about inclinations, skills, and aptitudes. At the same time, our personal and business actions are impacted by our ability to accurately read each life situation and adapt what we've learned about ourselves--and the situation--to make sound choices. Which means that our actual behavior may appear inconsistent depending on the situation.

I would hope so. People who behave consistently regardless of changing circumstances that demand something else are, well: nuts.

Which then provides work for counseling psychologists who will use an instrument as a starting point to help pigeonhole the nuttiness.

What a country.

Wally Bock

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.


Wally Bock

K.T. Connor, PhD

I have a hypothesis: We come with a propsensity for a certain emphasis in how we process the world and ourselves and, if we are successful in dealing with either, we tend to reinforce that propensity.

Using the work of Robert s. Hartman and Wayne Carpenter, I find most people change in their processing of themselves more than they change in their processing of the world. In other words a focus on empathy, practical thinking and systemic thinking tend to be more stable in most people. A focus on self esteem, self confidence, and goal directedness tend to shift more over time. This says to me that most people have more command over (and more success with) processing the world around them than in processing themselves. This has serious implications for training, development and coaching, as well as for high performance fit.

Email me(ktconnor@thinkgpattern.com) if you'd like more information. I've been working with this process over 20 years. Also email me if you'd like to see how I measure propensity and talent. I'll send you a login.


Steve Roesler


I would say that your hypothesis is more than borne out by repeated observation and thousands of years of history, even anecdotal.

I'll shoot you an email and take you up on your generous offer.

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