Talent is Overrated

Published: May 22 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Politicians who promise that the streets will be paved with gold and deliver nothing but cobbled cul-de-sacs, managers who claim that the future will be filled with bonuses and jam while delivering dry crust and the negotiator who offers a future filled with high volume orders and pulls them whilst pocketing the promotional bonus. Nothing offends the sensibility quite so much as the empty promise delivered with mind-boggling confidence.

Not necessarily according to a recent behavioral study published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Process journal last week.

Researchers have suggested that people admire the cocky and unctuous even when their pretentions are exposed.

Whilst mainstream theory holds that people who are found to be over confident (lots of sizzle, very little sausage), are punished by their peers, the experiment found that many groups are much more tolerant of a failure to match mouth with trousers than first thought. It appears that confidence creates a persistent peer impression of skill or talent, even when that talent is subsequently shown to be lacking.

The study split 140 people into groups and then asked them a series of general knowledge questions. They were then asked to rate their own and other peoples in the groups status, ability and influence.

Those who rated themselves and their own talents highly were given the highest status by the others. This continued even after results were revealed that belied this confidence.

What do we learn from this?

The first is that we hear the confidence of the other party before we hear the actual message and can be seduced by that without fully understanding the full implications if they fail to be delivered. Don’t give better terms on the promise of a better future. Retro fit the terms once the future has been delivered.

The second is that we need to develop confidence in our own ability if we desire to be successful. If we can deliver on that confidence, that becomes a potent cocktail. Confidence comes when we are well prepared and have thought through the implications of what we are about to do. Rehearsing and planning our response in difficult situations, will give the confident negotiator the control to realize our preferred outcome.

I am 100% confident of that.

Alan Smith


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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