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Talents versus Knowledge Workers

Most organizations do not know how to distinguish between their talents and knowledge workers. All talents are knowledge workers, but not all knowledge workers are talents. Talents are more than knowledge workers. To operate successfully, every organization needs both talents and knowledge workers. Knowledge workers may become talents through dedication and a well-defined goal, but most don't make the transformation. The following are seven differences between talents and knowledge workers.

Talents Make and Break the Rules; Knowledge Workers Conserve the Rules

The main difference between talents and knowledge workers is that talents break the rules, create, initiate, invent, direct, and send—talents take initiative, they are proactive. Knowledge workers, in general, do not. Knowledge workers take orders. They are studious and obedient people. Just because a person is brilliant or has a Ph.D. does not mean that person is talented. One need not be a genius to be a talent.

In the 1950s, when W. Edwards Deming begged American companies to improve their quality, they didn't listen. He continued to beg into the 1980s, when corporate America finally listened. Of course, by then Japan had a 30-year head start, from which the Western world has never recovered. Deming identified incredible persistence as a key characteristic of talent. His ideas provided a great service to society but were slow to gain acceptance in the Western world.

Breaking the rules is not necessarily the road to glory and wealth. The dot-bombs broke all the rules of business leadership. Many had no visible means of actually making money by offering something for sale. They simply sold their ideas to people with money who clearly did not use diligence in recognizing unrealistic business plans. They broke the rules and bombed out at the expense of many broken lives.

Talents Create; Knowledge Workers Implement

Talents are your ingenuity source. They are creative. But creative talents need support from knowledge workers to make the products and services and get them to customers. For an example in a different arena, scientists are talents who do research with the help of associates (knowledge workers). In business organizations, knowledge workers help talents to transform ideas into reality.

Talents Initiate Change; Knowledge Workers Support Change

Talents can feel the need to initiate change before it becomes necessary to change. Talents generally initiate change within the organization. But talents need visionary knowledge workers who support the change. Without the support of knowledge workers, it would not be possible for talents to bring about the changes within the organization. Even the rare talents who can intertwine talent behaviors and knowledge worker behaviors as the circumstances demand need the support of additional knowledge workers to implement innovations and changes.

Talents Innovate; Knowledge Workers Learn

Talents innovate, and knowledge workers learn and apply those innovations in the organization. Talents are the teachers; knowledge workers are the good students. A talent may create a programming language and teach it to the knowledge workers, who would then learn, use, and refine the language.

Talents Direct; Knowledge Workers Act

Talents direct knowledge workers to perform the work. Good knowledge workers learn to deal with the idiosyncrasies that seem to be characteristic of talents. With the direction of talents, knowledge workers perform their work. Knowledge workers carry out the visions and marching orders of talents.

Talents Inspire and Lift People; Knowledge Workers Receive Information and Motivation

If you are a talented person, you likely want to help the next generation; you want to lift the people who work around you; you want to see those people become successful. And yet when some of those people fail, you become frustrated. Knowledge workers don't understand this. Often knowledge workers don't understand what talents are after because they are so different. Knowledge workers have to understand what talents are after, what their missions are. Unfortunately, talents are not always good at explaining their ideas and intents to their knowledge workers. No talent is perfect. Talents need to work on their weaknesses as they play to their strengths. If you are a talented manager, and you have 10 knowledge workers reporting to you, you need to take time to get them to share the excitement of the dream with you. Show them your love for what you do and pass that ball to them.

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