I remember school and college being a fantastic time to begin the discovery of and hone one’s talents. It was the time when we had the opportunity to try our hand at various talents such as art — drawing, painting, poetry, needlework, writing and the performing arts like dance, music, theatre, etc. School helped me discover my talent for public speaking and college kindled my interest in organizing activities and being part of teams that organized various events. But that didn’t seem like a ‘talent’ at that time; I put it down to ‘interest’ and something I seemed to be good at.
But do you know, in the world of work these are really talents and contributions that are in high demand? For example, coming up with ideas, being able to put a process in place, spotting errors… you could call these behavioural talents. It is what enables us to be effective, make a positive difference and contribution to the social setting we find ourselves in and helps us experience and enjoy life in a way that is fulfilling and helps us realize our potential.
The interesting and exciting bit is that today with artificial intelligence and machine learning, the world of work is changing. Earlier there was a lot of emphasis on hard skills. But today, because things are changing so fast and technology is constantly evolving, industries are beginning to look for individuals who know their behavioural talents and how to use them to make a difference to any situation or challenge they find themselves in.
It was over 12 years of research in the late 1960’s that first led to the discovery of these behavioural talents. The research was conducted at Henley Management College in the U.K. by Dr Meredith Belbin and his team of researchers. Their study was extremely interesting — they studied teams who were taking part in a team game to identify which teams were successful and what seemed to lead to their success. Through their research they were able to identify certain important behavioural talents or contributions if made in the team, these were the teams that were actually winning the games! These talents refer to our tendency or natural inclination to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way.
The researchers discovered nine distinct types of talents and gave us a language to talk about them:
One of the first talents that the researchers identified was the ability to come up with ideas. There was always someone in the winning teams who came up with ideas; some of the ideas were out of the box, some even impractical but some were absolutely brilliant. Dr Belbin called this type of talent the ‘Plant’.
The researchers also identified some people who were really good at weighing ideas and analyzing which ideas will work. You may have come across this when you were working on a project and you were confronted with multiple ways of going ahead — some people are very good at weighing the pros and cons and considering all options well. This behavioural contribution is referred to as the ‘Monitor Evaluator’.
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