Do you hire talent? Or develop it?

Sunflower by clconroy

In the creative world, talent (rather than effort) is emphasised constantly. It’s that certain style, aesthetic, effortless brilliance, and you’ve either got it… or you haven’t. Right?

Is there such a thing as talent? Or just people along the learning curve? And, as an employer/mentor, you’re either in a position to develop it, or you’re not.

Here are some great insights on how attitudes towards creative work and juniors can play a huge role in the development of inborn talents and options for growth, from an interview with Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck – author of Mindset: The New Psychology for Success.


“If you are giving negative feedback, it should be about the process rather than the person. So you can praise what was good about the process, but then you can also analyse what was wrong about the process and what the person can do in order to increase the likelihood of succeeding next time.” … “when I say, ‘You’re a genius!”… how do you reproduce that over and over?”

“I’ve also fallen in love with a new word – “yet”. You can say to someone who fell short: “You don’t seem to have this,” but then add the word “yet”. As in, “you don’t seem to have these skills… yet.” By doing that, we give people a time perspective. It creates the idea of learning over time. It puts the other person on that learning curve.

She mentioned research on changing managers’ mindsets by Peter Heslin. Researchers followed managers who received growth mindset training and for the following six weeks found these managers were much more open to feedback from employees, were less likely to make snap judgements about who has talent and who doesn’t, and these managers were more willing to mentor others.

“If you’re in a fixed mindset and you believe that some people have it and some people don’t, you think, well “I will just wait and see who has it and who doesn’t. Cream rises to the top.”

“But if you have a growth mindset, you understand that “hey, I’m in the business of growing talent, helping it develop, not just sitting back and judging it.””


“Adults in a fixed mindset think that great effort, great struggle, means you’re not smart. The notion, ‘if I were smart/talented/it would just come to me’, but people in a growth  mindset enjoy the effort and welcome struggle. They understand that is what innovation requires.”

“In a growth mindset, you don’t always welcome the setback… but you understand that it’s information on how to move forward next time. It is a challenge that you are determined to surmount. In a fixed mindset, a setback calls your ability into question.”

“If you’re with someone who is tremendously able and successful, think: “what can I learn from this person? Yes, maybe I feel a little intimidated but this person could be a great mentor. I could learn a lot. Maybe I could get to know them, maybe they could take me under their wing.””