José Antonio Marina  






In which it is made clear why I have written yet another book when there are so many already in the bookshops.


‘Talent’ is in fashion. The number of books about it grows continuously. Surprisingly, these do not tend to be works of psychology, but rather books about management. Psychologists tend to abandon the concept because they don’t think it rigorous enough. At best they connect it with being ‘gifted’ or possessed of ‘special abilities’, which doesn’t throw enough light on the subject at all. Several years ago, The Economist mentioned that the world of business was using the word ‘talent’ a great deal, but did not know how to define it. They didn’t want to know about it, simply to use it.[1] You must admit that it is difficult to manage something without really knowing what it is. It’s like saying that you organise ghosts, sell auras, or think about smoke.

In spite of these difficulties, I believe that we need to use the concept of ‘talent’, whether we call it as such or by a different name, because the term ‘intelligence’ is now both insufficient and static. We talk about it as though it were a faculty we were born with and which all we can do is administer as best we can. Science tells us otherwise. Intelligence brings us into a world which is constantly redesigning itself, building itself up or breaking itself down. Human intelligence is transformed into talent once it widens its horizons, once it begins to enact its creative project on itself, once it starts to grow. This is the story I want to tell in this book.

Simultaneously, I need to tell you a part of the story of contemporary psychology, which has, with various advances and retreats, explored this complicated territory. For centuries psychologists connected intelligence and knowledge. This is what ‘cognitive psychology’ or even ‘Artificial Intelligence’ are still doing today. ‘Reason’ (in its broadest sense) and science are the archetypes for this kind of thinking. It is an attitude that has pushed the worlds of motivation and emotion to one side, seeing them as a hindrance to intelligence, rather than some of its fundamental components. But it is easy to see that emotion without reason is blind, and reason without emotion is paralysed. This is something that Hume knew, but it was actually proved by the Portuguese neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. People who, after an accident or surgery, have the neuronal links severed between the cognitive and emotional areas of their brain are perfectly capable of reason, but they are unable to take decisions.[2] It is as though they lacked the energy to take the final step towards action. The idea of ‘emotional intelligence’ tried to fill this gap, but it was not able to provide an integrated vision of the human mind. Now we know that we can only create such a picture if we consider that the function of intelligence—the function of the brain itself—is not to know things, or to feel, but to direct our actions. And everything else revolves around this objective.

Action—rather than knowledge—is the unifying element of psychology. Robert Sternberg, a great psychologist, edited a book called Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid.[3] And it is true: an extremely intelligent person can behave in ways that are particularly unintelligent. And in such a case, how should we label this individual? This was a question which interested me so much that I wrote a book, La inteligencia fracasada (Failed Intelligence: The Theory and Practice of Stupidity), in an attempt to explain it to myself and to interested readers.[4] What remained after this was to study the other side of the coin: La inteligencia triunfante (Intelligence Triumphant), by which I meant the kind of intelligence that does not limit itself to understanding and processing information, and managing emotions, but rather takes the best decisions it can and puts them effectively into practice. The main axis of psychology is the movement from knowledge into action, which is the definitive test of its processes. What this shows is that, beyond cognitive intelligence and emotional intelligence, the new model which is emerging and which combines everything else is that of executive intelligence,[5] intelligence in action and geared towards action. We do not think in order to gain knowledge. We think in order to act. And talent is intelligence, acting in a way that is suitable, brilliant, efficient. This is a concept that combines both activity and the assessment of that activity. And so, alongside the idea of studying how intelligence functions, we should also create a practical science aimed at developing talent. This is a major idea of the day. Thomas Homer-Dixon, from the University of Toronto, asks in alarm: ‘Are we going to be capable of generating the talent we need to resolve the colossal problems that

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