As a teenager, I spent many years playing chess with a dream of becoming the next Garry Kasparov. I still remember how eager I was following Kasparov’s games against IBM’s Deep Blue in 1996 and 1997. I loved chess, and since the age of eight I devoted so many hours for so long to realize that dream, but after few years and during my freshman year at the university, I realized that I won’t even qualify for the national chess championship and this is obviously because I didn’t have what it takes, neither the analytical skills, the speed or the mental configuration that makes me a real chess talent, not even in the tri-dimensional Star Trek chess. Unfortunately, I have taken so long to realize that I have devoted all this time and effort playing and reading about chess and its strategies fruitlessly. If these long years were spent sharpening what I am talented at doing, I would have been a superstar in that area. This is the essence of strengths-based development, a concept that was crafted and refined over the years by Donald O. Clifton, a leading American educational psychologist and founder of Selection Research Inc, and the foundation of the Tom Rath’s new book “StrengthsFinder 2.0”, the reference text on the topic.
Strengths-based development recognizes individual differences, and that no matter what we do, we cannot be copies of each other, because each of us has a different set of strengths and weaknesses. So, spending our time doing what we were created to do makes us happier and more satisfied, rather than endlessly trying to be someone we can never be.
Strengths-based development plays a critical role in today’s organizational development by focusing the company’s effort on assigning the task to the employee who is best suited to do it. In today’s development theory people underperform and fail to engage in tasks that don’t match their skills and talents. There is a role for everyone; some people are natural-born public speakers, some are great business analysts, some are free-spirited journalists, some are great academic researchers. The most important determining factor is learning more about self and about one’s true talents that can easily to sharpened and turned into productive or profitable skill.
Understanding the strengths of other people makes us better communicators, as we understand how to motive others or engage them in what we do. It helps us be better managers, by choosing the right talents for a specific job, or by assigning a task to the one who does it best.