Innovation 101 – Develop Talent

by Saul Kaplan

Innovation 101 - Develop TalentIf the goal is to develop markets start by developing talent. If you want to accomplish the most amazing things focus on developing the talent of amazing people. Mentoring and coaching are the most important leadership roles. Innovation starts by surrounding yourself and connecting with the best talent. If you want to attract the best talent develop a reputation as the best talent developer.

Put growth opportunities for others ahead of your own. Put growth opportunities for others ahead of your organization and your community. If you put developing talent first you will attract the best talent. If you consistently encourage and prepare talented individuals to grow into the best opportunities, wherever they are, you will become a talent magnet. People who want to get better will want to work for, with, and near you. If you prioritize talent development people will trust their talents to you.
When talented people move on to other great opportunities don’t think of it as a hole you need to fill. Don’t think of it as a transition inconvenience or a burden to take on additional tasks while filling a role. Be proud when people you mentor go on to new opportunities. High potential people will seek you out if you have a track record of celebrating and supporting the success of others. Talent development is self-fulfilling.

Too many managers think only about the work that needs to be done and how to keep people focused on the task at hand. When employees leave organizations it’s viewed as a management challenge. The difference between a manager and a leader is managers try to hold on to people assigned to them at all costs and leaders try to develop people assigned to them at all costs. Leaders encourage new personal and professional development opportunities for their best people even if they are outside of the organization. Leaders who build a reputation for talent development always attract the best people.

It’s the same for community leadership. Communities should worry less about “brain drain” and worry more about building the capacity for talent development. Communities should worry less about company incentives for job creation and more about investments in education and workforce development. Differentiate your community by its commitment to talent development. Don’t worry if talented people move on to explore opportunities in other communities. Encourage it. Stay focused on making your community the best it can be at helping it’s citizens be the best they can be. Talent development is the best economic development.

Talent development is on my mind this week as Melissa Withers, who I have worked closely with, mentored, and learned from for the last five years, was named by the newly elected Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, Angel Taveras, as his Director of Communication.

I could not be more proud and happy for Melissa and the exciting growth opportunity that lies ahead for her. Throughout my career nothing has been more important than mentoring and supporting the personal and professional development of those I am fortunate enough to work with. I have enjoyed the privilege of mentoring and working closely with Melissa at both the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and at the Business Innovation Factory and know she will be successful in her new job. I am grateful for Melissa’s contribution to our success at BIF and I’m confident, thanks to Melissa, we are positioned to continue our growth and make progress on our mission to transform the next decade. As a resident of Providence and a big fan of Melissa’s I am rooting for her continued success.

Success is defined not by accomplishments in the market but by the accomplishments of the people around you. If you attract the best people and focus on their personal development they will accomplish amazing things. There is nothing more personally rewarding than contributing to the talent development of others. If you want to innovate, start with talent development.


What else are they saying about 'Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire'

Don’t miss an article (2,000+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Continuous Innovation group!


Saul KaplanSaul Kaplan is the Founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF). Saul shares innovation musings on his blog at It’s Saul Connected and on Twitter at @skap5.