Haley Scholar Reading Groups
By Cindy Lyles
The query “Are smart people overrated?” threads through Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Talent Myth.” By chronicling the strategies that McKinsey & Company management-consulting firm offered corporations like Enron, Gladwell explains that failed businesses quite possibly fell short on account of the very thing that seemed to make them outstanding—the talent mindset, or “the deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you outperform your competitors” (Gladwell 358).
One specific practice McKinsey promoted to businesses trying to place “better talent at all levels” within respective companies was that of differentiation and affirmation. This technique is a process of assorting employees into tiers based on performance. Those in group one would be employees who are “challenged and disproportionately rewarded,” and the next group would include workers who “need to be encouraged and affirmed” (Gladwell 360). The bottom group consists of those who are in danger of losing their jobs due to lackluster performance. Quite evident, each rank is distinguished and calls for divergent levels of affirmation.
Although the article demonstrates how differentiation and affirmation work in the business world, the concept is quite portable and apposite in other institutions, like colleges and universities. In what ways do differentiation and affirmation manifest in collegiate education systems? Who benefits from the strategy, and for whom does it prove problematic?