The Necessary Shift to Commercial Talent by David Adeoye, CFA
Your Talent Should not be Dormant.
It is common knowledge that many world economies are currently facing challenges; it is expected that in the years ahead, the size and attractiveness of white-collar employment may diminish relative to the available supply of skilled labour.
At such times, two works of art come to mind. An old song and a piece of hilarious but instructive comedy. First the song by Juju maestro, Ebenezer Obey about four decades ago, based on the scripture parable of the talents. The song in Yoruba conveys a simple message, "Do not bury your talent my brother; for the Lord will ask you, what you did with it".
As natural abilities and talents carry both social and commercial value; they impose a measure of accountability for their use, non-use, or misuse. Even when a person has just one talent, his Master will expect a return on investment, according to the parable.
Now, to the comedy. 'Woli' Arole, a comedian, asked his audience to pray - “who is that fellow hawking my watermelons on a wheel barrow? May the heavens collect them, and display take at a grocery store!” This comedy comes with some lessons. When you compare watermelons being hawked with a wheel barrow, and those displayed on the shelves of a grocery store; though same commodity, one commands a higher price than the other as a result of the location and method of sale.
In the same way, talents or skills expressed commonly, without good packaging or presentation, may pass as ordinary skills with no distinction or superior performance. It is not enough for the individual to find where his ability lies; it is important to find the right environment to nurture potential abilities to top quality, because talents require some level of organization and innovation to command its true market value.
Natural talents whether used or not, lasts a lifetime; mostly undiscovered, undeveloped and unused. Discovering talent or gift is the responsibility of every individual.
At critical economic times, people tend to revert to their natural abilities (beyond education and certifications) to create opportunities for themselves and others whom they will need to employ. Along with the emerging environment of opportunities, is keen competition in various fields of talent. Talent alone would not make much difference, it will need to transform from a mere gift or personal ability to a commercial enterprise that creates value, profitably and sustainably.
The ingredients and process through which raw talent is developed to commercial venture can be illustrated with two examples from the world of art: music and fiction-writing.
For example, in music, the singing talent is clearly manifest in the singer's voice and her ability to extend and control the output of that voice. Yet, a great voice, alone in itself, does not make a great musician. There is the process of voice training, which is only one aspect of a musician's development. As the individual works to progress from being a singer to becoming a musician, the skills, efforts, and contributions of others become increasingly important. At this point, the quality of human association, communication skills, ability to lead and work with others all become critical. The absence of these non-talent abilities can hold back or even unmake a potentially world-class music talent. The musician needs to work with voice trainers, songwriters, producers, musical instrument specialists, technical professionals (including studio managers), record label-owners and marketers, among others.
The writer of fiction faces a task that is simpler but is by no means easier. He needs to combine the discipline of concentration, imagination, good organization, willingness to learn with a natural flair for storytelling. The need to work with others is no less important. Like the musician, the writer must produce works that publishers consider to be potential winners among perhaps hundreds of competing manuscripts.
As various economies compel, amongst other factors, young men and women will choose their own paths based on their natural abilities, skills, and experience. Vocations in the world of entertainment, art, fashion, sports, food processing, culinary experts and so on, are springing up surprisingly in very creative and innovative ways.
There are makeup artists, head-gear stylists, culinary chefs, exotic bakers, event planners, caterers, party favor suppliers, comedians, mobile food stalls and supermarkets, courier/delivery services for all kinds of commodities; the list is endless.
Beyond this trend however, the economic and demographic conditions would also impose keener competition within the talent arena. As this happens, the key differentiator in performance and value would not be the level or quantum of talent but the discipline, innovation, knowledge and organization, which the individual applies. He must be ready for the commercial demands in his chosen vocation by creating value from otherwise unused or previously underutilized talent.
David Adeoye, CFA, a deal adviser, corporate strategist, and business economist is a director at Fritova Economics.
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