Vail Daily column: Can you spot talent? |

Vail Daily column: Can you spot talent?

Ross Iverson
Valley Voices

The Webster’s dictionary defines talent as any natural ability or power. The Gallup Organization talks about how talent is a reflection of how you are “hard wired,” and that talent results in consistently recurring patterns and behaviors. This might be the reason why those individuals within our organizations always perform well, or why those who yearn for actual performance simply bounce along. Talent is the foundation.

Talent is a major initiative of Gov. Hickenlooper’s second term as Colorado works to connect their educated students to the expanding workforce needs. As I started to look at this question of talent and how it relates to the Vail Valley, I asked myself the question, how can talent transform a community?

First off, talent attracts more talent, and this cycle is what can build a base of what is needed to move ideas into future results. Talent survives even during tough times. Talent spurs innovation. Talent attracts investors and investments. And, lastly, visionary talent transforms.

During the annual COIN (Colorado Innovation Network) event in Denver, the focus on talent was evident during professor Dr. Alok R. Chaturvedi’s discussion. Chaturvedi is a professor in Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management and the Department of Computer Sciences. He also serves as the global fellow for policy at Purdue’s Global Policy Research Institute and the director of the Institute for Social Empowerment through Entrepreneurship and Knowledge.

Chaturvedi’s discussion about developing women entrepreneurs in Third World villages in India through the use of smartphone training was truly compelling. His new initiative is built to move 10 million people out of poverty in 10 years.

Chaturvedi’s presentation discussed how this happens over time through the recognition of talent development. The base levels are those who are “livelihood and skills based,” and once those levels are achieved, then most gravitate into a discussion around “needs and means based.” America is headed quickly toward “knowledge based” as our economy matures. Finally, the top of his pyramid was “path breaking,” and this occurs far less frequently, but it is what truly shifts society and communities.

Bringing these concepts back to the Vail Valley, I started to look into the downside of the following common conversation.

“You probably don’t want to do that, we are a small community, and duplicating efforts is looked down upon as wasteful.”

The “duplication of efforts” discussion doesn’t unleash top talent and doesn’t encourage path breaking. I recently met a newcomer to the valley who was considering starting a program that the Leadership Institute has dabbled in, and instead of politely telling this person that he was duplicating our existing efforts, I spotted the talent this person might bring to our community and flipped the discussion to, “If you were to attempt this, how might you use your experience, contacts and commitment to make the valley better?” If this person had five-times the talent of one of our team members, then wouldn’t the community benefit from giving this person a platform to provide that talent to the community?

A leader has many roles, but none more important than developing the talent that surrounds them. Can you spot talent? When you do and they are in your industry, does it create a mindset of protectionism, or do you embrace how top talent can truly transform, and raise all tides. Is Samsung better off that Steve Jobs developed the iPhone?

I get the pleasure of working with some of the highest performing organizations and people in the valley and in the state of Colorado. The talent is through the roof! My observation is that top talent is never satisfied with the status quo. During a recent Applied Leadership Series event at the Donovan Pavilion, speaker Gary Chartrand said there needs to be a class on “rebellion.” Gary’s book “Unreasonable Leadership” prompts people to take a bold approach to applying their unique talent. Chartrand’s concern is that there is not a prescriptive way of taking a bold stance in a positive way, and many times rebellion gets shot down as a negative activity.

Does our community embrace rebellion, or does it ask people to fit within the confines that a select few have determined to be best for us all? Is it OK to duplicate efforts when the incoming talent pool might take an existing platform to a new level unimagined by the status quo? Just as organizations face the “founders syndrome,” so can communities. My call to action for community members with talent who have strong ethics, a burning passion and an urge to rebel is to strive for the top of the pyramid, and to be a “path-breaker.”

Ross Iverson is the president and CEO at the Vail Leadership Institute. Reach him at

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