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Talent, Training & Reality

March 14, 2008

The on-going debates over ‘talent’ and whether or not we have enough of it are becoming rather tedious. The truth is, we have created extremely disruptive technologies that are revolutionizing our world – how we communicate, how we perform work, how we interact etc. – and we have an incumbent professional community that is unsure (and in some cases reluctant) about how to react.

The effect of these technologies has been to break down physical borders, but at the same time forcing us to confront new borders in our knowledge and competency. People who assume they can simply carry on working as they always did are discovering unpleasant consequences as a result of their lack of information, or mistaken assumptions. For example, global supply chains require much wider knowledge than a network of national suppliers. Outsourced relatiosnhips demand a very different style of management than the internal relationships they replaced. The world of services contracts is dramatically different from the world of product supply. It is true – as it has always been – that many people lack the motivation and interest to expand their minds and capabilities to address this new world.

Like any time of dramatic change, most of us struggle with applying the new tools at our disposal. We find it hard to envisage what is possible. Many of the new software applications provide a perfect example – e-sourcing tools or contract management software where adoption is often low, implementation is unimaginative, resistance (except among younger people) is endemic.

And here in large part is the point. The youngsters who are enthusiastic to use new tools do not have the business experience to use them wisely or effectively; the ‘old timers’ who have experience and judgment do not understand the tools or how they could transform their workplace. 

In theory, one would hope that academia would be stepping into this gap and providing the portfolio of programs – at all levels – to raise business output and productivity. But in general, I don’ t think that it is. There are some tremendously talented individual academics, but unfortunately they are constrained by an education system that resists structural change and where departmental jealousies are perhaps even stronger than those that impeded structural changes at major corporations.

However, I am very excited about the academic forum that will run next month at the IACCM Americas conference. Breaking with traditional structures, it offers a range of lively and highly pertinent interchanges between academia and practitioners. The sessions will look at questions like the creation and management of global ‘bodies of knowledge’ in our networked age; how such materials can be structured to allow ‘on demand’ access and learning for professional development; the role of standards in complex areas like contracting and contract management; and the ways that academia and industry can more effectively link,  to take advantage of the ‘networked technology’ that enables increased alignment and dramatically faster response times.

Today we are generating knowledge, information and ideas at an unparalelled rate and volume. This creates massive challenges in syphoning, selecting, using and adopting all the great concepts at our disposal. It means that traditional academic and training programs are always out of date. It means that professionals, already overwhelmed by workload, feel themselves falling further and further behind ….

Those to my mind are the ‘talent issues’ and that is why we are making sure they get debated and – for our community at least – that they also get resolved. 

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