Talent begrebet er et tomt udtryk

The emptiness of talent

By Billy Adamsen*https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9781137508652


No matter where we look in our society, we talk about talent, we see talents in the media and in talent shows, and we hear about them in school, at our workplaces, and at sports games. It seems clear that talent has become integral to contemporary culture, and to our modern way of understanding what it is that generates social success and prosperity.

Long before this almost manic obsession with talent took hold of us, it was treated more seriously by business and sports consultants and by researchers from different disciplines, all of whom had come to realize that extraordinary, exceptional individuals – even more than a high level of competence overall – were a core organizational asset that could strengthen competitiveness and ensure progress. This naturally produced the idea that exceptional individuals share an underlying attribute, some personal trait or characteristic that is an important driver for social success, and for achieving both individual and group goals, both in business and in sports. In 2001, Michaels, Handfield-Jones, and Axelrod published their book The War for Talent, whose rapid spread and increase in influence among business and sports consultants led to the emergence of a new discipline, and new methods and techniques, for identifying, recruiting, and developing the eponymous ‘talents’. This new discipline was called ‘talent management’. Later, although at a slower pace, talent management became the focus of a corresponding area of scientific research, although at first (and perhaps to this day) it was a sub-discipline of human resource management. Today, thousands of papers and books have been published on the topic, containing both empirical research on relevant topics and a variety of models for talent management that have been developed and improved over the years.

Despite this vast accumulation of knowledge about talent and the effective identification, recruitment, and development of talented individuals, the actual results of the associated management practices have varied widely in terms of changes in performance of individuals and competitiveness of organizations. Some researchers, such as Peter Cappelli, have demonstrated that the inadequacy of talent management methods leads to a massive failure in companies’ ability to accurately identify talented recruits: “Failure in talent management is a source of pain for executives in modern organizations. Over the past generation, talent management practices, especially in the United States, have by and large been dysfunctional, leading cooperation to lurch from surpluses of talent to shortfalls to surpluses and back again” (Cappelli, 2008.1). Other researcher such as Silzer and Dowel has in 2010 pointed out that every individual talent manager brings individual subjective biases to bear in their work, and that these biases could (in theory) lead to the observed inadequacy of talent management models, and the resulting inefficacy of management practices. In order to find a plausible explanation for this subjective bias in talent management, researchers have recently started to pay attention to the terminology and language of talent management as a possible cause. Lewis and Heckman did back in 2006 show how there is a lack of semantic clarity in the compound phrase ‘talent management’, and Caroline Tansley in 2011 demonstrated that even the meaning of the term ‘talent’ is blurry and hard to pin down. I have recently demonstrated in my book ‘Demystifying talent management – a critical approach to the realities of talent’ that both terms actually have become empty signifiers which indeed could provide us with a plausible explanation for the subjective bias in any talent management practice.

If we understand talent and talent management as an empty signifier and the language of talent management as semantic empty, which paradoxically doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a meaning but just that it has multiple meanings subjectively determined by the language user/ the talent manager/coach/scout, then it would be reasonable to suggest that the subjective bias in talent management has to do with the fact that we don’t know what a talent means and what it is in the actual world. And this is just so problematical, because not knowing what the term really means will turn any talent discussion, talent identification and talent recruitment into a question of subjectivity and belief in talent rather than objectivity and knowledge of talent. Or differently put – if you believe someone is a talent then he or she is actually a talent – despite the fact that we don’t know it (and that he or she can’t be talents because they don’t exist in the actual world). Can’t you see how wrong that is and what it leads to?



Adamsen, Billy (2016): Demystifying talent management – a critical approach to the realities of talent. (Palgrave Macmillan)

Cappelli, Peter (2008b): Talent management for the twenty first century, pp. 1–8. Harvard Business Review.

Lewis, Robert E. & Heckman, Robert J. (2006): Talent management – A critical view. Human Resource Management Review. Vol. 16, 139–154.

Michaels, Ed, Handfield-Jones, Helen & Axelrod, Beth (2001): The war for talent. Harvard Business School Publishing.

Silzer, R.F. & Dowell, B.E. (Eds.) (2010): Strategy driven talent management: A leadership imperative. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tansley, Carole (2011): What do we mean by the term ‘talent’ in talent management? Industrial and Commercial Training. Vol. 43:5, 266–274.


*Billy Adamsen is the author to the recently published book ‘Demystifying talent management – a critical approach to the realities of talent’ (2016.Palgrave Macmillan). He has published several books and papers on a variety of subjects including Sport management, talent management, Management, Cognition and Media, Politics and Media, Psychology of language and the effect of new media. In addition to his academic experience as an assistant professor at the Talent Lab, Zealand Institute of Business & Technology in Denmark, he has worked as a manager, director, advisor and scout for different national and international companies within business, politics and sports.


Billy Adamsen i Den store Danske – Gyldendal



Billy Adamsen, f. 1963, dansk forfatter og medierådgiver; eksam.art. i sprogpsykologi, mag.art. i litteraturvidenskab og ph.d. i politisk sprogpsykologi (1996). Billy Adamsen har været tilknyttet bl.a. Københavns Universitet, Copenhagen Business School og Syddansk Universitet som ekstern lektor. Læs videre “Billy Adamsen i Den store Danske – Gyldendal”

Billy Adamsen om Kognition og Ledelse

Ny artikel om kognition og ledelse i bogen Cognition beyond the brain, som i 2017 er udkommet på forlaget Springer

This book challenges neurocentrism by advocating a systemic view of cognition based on investigating how action shapes the experience of thinking, placing interactivity at its heart. This systemic viewpoint makes three main claims. First, that many elaborate cognitive skills like language, problem solving and human-computer interaction (HCI) are based in sense-saturated coordination or interactivity. Second, interactivity produces a tightly woven scaffold of resources, some internal to the agent and others external, that elevates and transforms thinking. Third, human agents entwine brains, bodies and their surroundings as they manage multi-scalar dynamics.
This new edition continues to demonstrate how a systemic perspective casts a productive light on thinking in applied domains such as crime scene analysis, the use of information technology in construction, and computer-meditated trusts and presents new studies on the cognitive ecology of the web, multi-scalar temporal and organisational cognition and the importance of interactive material engagement in digital architecture. Authors use various scales of the systemic viewpoint to illustrate how bodies and artefacts shape thinking, but in all cases the experience of materiality is meshed with activity that involves the world beyond the body.

Cognition Beyond the Brain
is a valuable reference for researchers, practitioners and graduate students within the fields of Computer Science, Psychology, Linguistics and Cognitive Sciences.



Billy Adamsen sætter kritisk fokus på talenter i sport

Tidligere Rødovre-direktør sætter kritisk fokus på talentbegrebet

Han er tidligere Rødovre  Mighty Bulls-direktør, har to sønner i det nordamerikanske ishockeygame og er fremdeles aktiv i ishockeyverdenen som rådgiver og iagttager.

Og så har 53-årige Billy Adamsen i løbet af den seneste håndfuld år forsket i “talentbegrebet”, som resulterede i, at han i efteråret udgav en bog Demystifying Talent Management – a critical approach to the realities of talent” (udgivet af forlaget Palgrave Macmillan)

Bogen sætter kritisk fokus på begrebet “talent” og bygger på fem års forskning, og kan såmænd uden problemer relateres til ishockeysporten.

Skulle man drage en kort konklusion på det store videnskabelige værk, så er det, at Billy Adamsen ganske enkelt er kommet frem til, at talentbegrebet er blevet udvandet så meget, at alt for mange udøvere efterhånden får betegnelsen “talent” i en eller anden forstand. Derfor skal man i stedet beregne en udøvers konkurrenceevne på anden vis. Adamsen foreslår den såkaldte IQC-metode. Den kommer vi tilbage til.

– Det er bevist, at mellem to og fem procent i en årgang reelt har et talent udover det sædvanlige, men alligevel er der mange flere, der får betegnelsen “talent”. Begreber som “stort talent”, “naturtalent”, “gudsbenådet talent” bliver brugt i flæng. Talent er blevet et tomt udtryk, som enhver kan lægge sin egen betydning i, siger Billy Adamsen.

– Vi bilder os ind, at vi ved, at talenter har større chancer for at opnå succes på det højeste sportslige niveau, men mange af “talenterne” har succes med at vinde over en kortere periode, men har sværere ved at opnå succes på længere sigt i konkurrence på højere niveau over en længere periode, tilføjer Adamsen.

– Fordi du eksempelvis er en god skøjteløber i en tidlig alder og dominerer spillet, vil nogen udpege dig til at være et talent. Men det betyder jo ikke, at du har potentialet til at blive en god ishockeyspiller. Det at være en god skøjteløber er jo blot en af flere nødvendige dele der skal til for at blive en god ishockeyspiller, når du kommer op i juniorårgangen og senere skal præstere som senior, fortsætter Billy Adamsen.


Og så er det, vi er tilbage ved IQC-metoden, som er en anden måde at måle en udøvers – eller en ishockeyspillers – evner til at præstere på højeste niveau.

– Man kigger på individet, kvalifikationerne og kompetencer og på, hvordan de tre forhold spiller sammen i en udvikling og hvordan ens IQC matcher de forskellige konkurrencemiljøer (ligaer) i ishockeyens verden

– Du kigger på individet – som individet nu engang er biologisk og fysisk – og på individets kvalifikationer, altså hvad han kan på og uden for isen. For eksempel på parametre, som kan være god bevægelighed, høj spilintelligens, hurtighed, vilje og disciplin og hvor hurtig han eller hun er til indlæring, siger Billy Adamsen.

– Kompetencerne er så de tillærte færdigheder, som kan anvendes på og uden for isen. Selv om man deltager i rigtig meget træning og i rigtige mange camps – så betyder det bestemt ikke at man automatisk bliver mere kompetent og opnår flere kompetencer. Og når man så har fundet frem til spillerens IQC så forsøger man ud fra den viden at matche spilleren med den rigtige position og rolle på et hold og de forskellige niveauer og ligaer. Det er vejen til at opnå større succes, lyder det fra den tidligere Rødovre-direktør.

Han fordrer dermed en mere videnskabelig og rationel tilgang til talent og holdsammensætning, end den lette betegnelse “talent”, der ifølge Adamsen er fremherskende i dag