Making a Difference as a Talent Scout

If you wake up deciding what you are going to give versus what you are going to get, you can become a more successful entrepreneur.”
Russell Simmons, Entrepreneur

“Success does not measure the human being, effort does.”

The Wicked Problem in the Ecosystem of Ignited Minds

Within the microcosm of  a prominent, progressive and wealthy zipcode, the artificial partitioning of talent, among the underserved, under-recognized or disadvantaged populations (uud), is still an unconscious bias and entrenched in talent scouts’ mental models.

Employing a fixed mindset does a disservice to the opportunity-focused youth in uud by placing them either in the “balcony or hallway” based on their demographics or other attributes. This historical disparity deprives them of an opportunity to succeed in life and becomes a case of throwing talent away which leads to unintended consequences and leaves them off the bus while competing for the future in the global 21st century economy.

A principal (talent scout) of a high school in this zipcode has an almost impossible and frustrating job since he has to walk on a tightrope while adhering to a strict bureaucracy, a diverse array of student needs and assuaging the expectations of parents from the top echelon to the bottom of the pyramid.

This is a classic case of the setup to fail syndrome for both the talent scout and the underserved potential talent at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP). The setup to fail syndrome has become a wicked problem in search of solutions that were needed yesterday. Given the radical and economic divisions that persist in USA, we need an all hands on deck approach to find common ground with a spirit of “ubuntu” and forge comprehensive and scalable solutions to address this disparity.


In a knowledge-based economy, it is vital for the emerging workforce to develop grit, i.e., having the passion and perseverance toward long-term goals.

“Disability is an engine of innovation simply because no matter what their limitations, humans have such a relentless drive to communicate that they’ll invent new ways to do so, in spite of everything.” (link

There has to be a better way to unleash and harness the individual slices of genius around the underserved opportunity-focused youth and unleash their collective brilliance.

A Giving Work Ethic of a Solution Focused Coach

The role of a solution focused (SF) coach is not to fall into the trap of evaluating talent and finding or mining deficits. Rather the SF coach is always helping to build strength in a client. To make the human interactions down to earth, engaging and comprehensible, solution focused conversations are simple using $5 words (not $5000 words). Abandoning her traditional script, a SF coach has a performative conversation with Joe (a talented human being) by remaining open, curious, non-judgmental, perhaps vulnerable, make hearing offers and co-create with Joe. This is a revolutionary way to engage in a listening conversation and often results in a performance breakthrough for Joe to “perform a head taller” that where he is today.

Through my deep dive in corporate renewal of distressed companies, I have learned the insight regarding a unique brand of authentic leadership:

“A special situation confronting a distressed company is a theatre for an Artistic Turnaround Manager (ATM) to release act hunger, unleash creativity and spontaneity and also provides a workout for authentic leadership.”

The “special situation” confronting opportunity-focused youth at the Bottom of the Pyramid demands the invocation of this brand of authentic leadership.

think like a giver

  •  Align the player with a coach (a giver who is also caring, kind and patient) who can serve as an early catalyst for intense practice necessary to develop expertise through practice.
  • Spot undervalued players and find the “diamond in the rough.”
  • Reverse the fixed mindset, “to be successful you have to be selfish.”
  • Practice generosity
  • Remain open to outside advice and negative feedback.
  • Be more receptive to expertise from others.
  • Adopt the philosophy that “it is not what a player is but what he can become.”
  • Look at the big picture and prioritize what matters most to others.
  • Make room for gritty players even if they lack the talent.
  • Prioritize players’ interests ahead of personal success.
  • Be empathetic and make every player’s experience feel special.
  • Punctuate the learning or instruction with entertaining routines to keep the players engaged and motivated.
  • Cultivate a player’s grit by setting high expectations and set stretch goals so that (s)he can do more than what is conceived possible.
  • Givers resist the temptation to search for talent first.
  • Givers recognize that anyone can be a bloomer and hence focus their attention on motivation.
  • Givers operate under the assumption that a twin combination of motivation and interest are the prerequisites for unleashing the talent’s brilliance.
  • Instill the belief that the player has the potential to succeed and the skills to overcome challenges.
  • See the best in the player and continue to guide him in an encouraging manner.
  • Givers influence the player’s character, passion, determination and perseverance.
  • Givers don’t wait for signs of potential but view other people as bloomers and try to bring out their very best in them.

The Process of Unleashing the Brilliance

Unleashing the Brilliance is a disciplined process used by a Solution Focused Business Professional to cultivate imagination in a player (opportunity-focused youth) that his potential is a “diamond in the rough’ — able and willing to be mined, cut and polished – in order to become a host leader, innovate and make a difference in the knowledge economy.

The art of Making a Difference is a commitment and work ethic to gritty giving – displaying interest, focus and drive – by being the first and the last to leave. “The host like holding the space is dedicated to connection and to development, to people being their own experts, to possibility, potential, and graceful shared progress and evolution..”

From a social therapeutic point of view, it is important that people see the difference between who they are and how they think about who they are . It is natural for every human being to lead a life of unlimited, continuous growth and development.

In the middleman economy as a wedge resource sandwiched among multiple silos (individuals or teams) in a struggling bureaucracy, I have realized that I am in the business of creating a partnership between the customers and the company. I am actually working in the space in between the client and the company.

Asking different questions that move us beyond the frontier of our current understanding, taking multiple perspectives and seeing the system are sustaining and sustainable habits of mind that I want to knit into the fabric of my work.

habits of mind

Building these habits of mind in the next generation of innovation leaders will enable an organization to build the following capabilities:

  • Creative abrasion, or the ability to generate ideas through discourse and debate
  • Creative agility, or the ability to test and experiment through quick pursuit, reflection, and adjustment
  • Creative resolution, or the ability to make decisions that combine disparate and sometimes even opposing ideas.

different forms of the midn

Developing strategic foresight requires individuals to learn three types of sensemaking models:

    • Hedgehog Thinking: Hedgehogs like detail, structure and certainty. These are the behavioral attributes for keeping the business running. However they disdain ambiguity and complexity.
    • Fox Thinking: Like a doubting Thomas, foxes are happiest while working with paradox, ambiguity and complexity. Fox thinking is useful while looking into different possibilities and generating opportunities. They are wary of unifying theories and use double loop learning by  reflecting on “how they think”.
    • Eagle Thinking: Flying high with excellent eyesight and clear vision, when the eagle spots her prey, she is able to alter her flight path and see the past, present and future in one temporal view

Computational thinking involves solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior, by drawing on the concepts fundamental to computer science.”
Jeannette Wing, Microsoft Research

Key Takeaway

“It is [the Authentic] Informal Leaders like the early adopters (the first and second followers) who ultimately influence and decide whether a new behavior takes hold.”

Designing with the underserved (and disabled) in mind enables us to create better products for everyone else across a persona spectrum for changing human capabilities. A SF coach is passionately motivated by the need to have something where they “want to have an impact and that aligns with their [personal] values.” Imagine how cool it would be for a gritty  and giving Solutions Focused (SF) coach to:

  • Use Practify to promote a growth mindset
  • Teach the (design) thinking of a hedgehog, fox and eagle
  • Unleash the brilliance of ignited minds at the Bottom of the Pyramid (uud)!

We should leverage the proven business model of Turner Impact Capital that is built on the premise that “if you want to cure, you have to harness market forces to create a sustainable solution. Stated in another way, the lens of impact investing also applies for delivering a range of solutions to enable Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) opportunity-focused  youth make a 180 degree turnaround and entrepreneurial capitalists in the 21st century (not just eligible for minimum wage jobs).

Creating a cadre of Authentic Informal Leaders (AILs) is a perpetual focus of a gritty SF giver targeted towards Unleashing the unicorns’ (*) brilliance in the ecosystem (UtTuBe) of a knowledge-based economy. (* : diamond in the rough)




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