Innovation Blog

Genius – Its Origins and How to Develop It

By Shlomo Maital

Guus Hiddink 

 Two seemingly unrelated pieces in today’s Global New York Times (March 24) shed light on a key issue in innovation:  How to develop genius and where genius comes from.[1]

   Anne Paul reviews David Shenk’s important new book on genius, which argues that we have not a “talent scarcity” (as HR experts continually caution), but a “latent talent abundance”…our problem is not “our inadequate genetic assets” but our “inability so far to tap into what we already have…the truth is that “few of us know our true limits, that the vast majority of us have not even come close to tapping what scientists call our ‘unactualized potential’. ” 

    Schenk reviews a large scientific literature on this subject.

    In his regular piece on global soccer, Rob Hughes discusses coach Guus Hiddink, who has developed and discovered some of world soccer’s greatest stars,  such as Romario, Ronaldo, and Korean Park Ji-sung.  Hiddink became coach of South Korea’s soccer team and in the 2002 World Cup took the team to the semi-finals, an amazing achievement.  He used three simple principles, which apply equally to innovation talent as to soccer talent:

  1.  Keep the game simple.   Simplifying problems, cutting through to the core, is essential in both soccer and innovation.

  2. Communicate through actions, not words.  Hiddink’s hard work elicited similar hard work from his players.   He walked his talk.

 3.  Demand that others work as hard as you are prepared to do.  Genius is not 1 per cent inspiration, and 99 per cent perspiration, as Edison once said; it is 100 per cent both inspiration and perspiration. 

     Hiddink made his South Korean players fit as Europeans. Then he made them believe they could win.  The combination was powerful.

     One of the core competencies of today’s global managers is skill in developing innovation talent.   Since this is the core skill of sports coaches and managers, it is worth benchmarking those among the coaches that excel in this. 


[1] Book review of The Genius in All of Us, by David Shenk.    Anne Murphy Paul;   and “Transmitting a gift that goes beyond words”, by Rob Hughes (Global Soccer).

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