The Rules of Attraction

Securing victory in the battle for organizational talent

Innovation is fueled by creativity, and creativity is fueled by talent. Since innovation is the competitive edge of the 21st century, it’s hardly surprising that countries, companies and all types of organizations are in a war for talent.

The most visible part of this war is attracting talent – companies and countries are in an arms race to provide incentives for capable and creative people and new start-ups are being acquired simply to capture the teams that run them. But the focus on attracting talent is just half of the story, because the war cannot be won without effectively nurturing talent. From kindergarten to higher education to employee development, countries and organizations can differentiate themselves by how they develop creative talent.

The need for talent is real. The 21st century is not a continuation of the 20th. Connectedness rules the world. Processing power and data storage are virtually free – a typical smartphone has computing power that shames a 1970s-era mainframe. A billion people – and soon many more – are now able to effortlessly communicate, socialize, trade and collaborate in real time. This introduces both chaos – flash mobs and the Arab Spring for example – and opportunity. Our systems and ways of thinking need to adapt to this new reality, but the process of developing a culture is slow. How can an organization attract or create the people who will have the ideas to shape the future?

My own views are shaped by contact with students for the last 30 years. A lot has happened in that time, and developing talent now requires a different approach than even ten years ago (the time before Facebook and Twitter and the beginnings of the internet). For universities, incoming students have changed. Youth now are different. Our students differentiate universities based on more than just rankings and reputation – they look at “greenness” and sustainability plans, at quality of life and opportunities to customize their learning experiences. They value individuality and see no limits to the impact that they will have on the world.

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