Recognizing Top Talent: Do We Know It When We See It?

Our brethren over at ERE have a intriguing blog post today by Mark Bregman about the difficultly recognizing top talent titled, Violinist in the Subway — Can we Recognize Talent? It’s a good question, and something you should be talking about in your own organization.

Perhaps you have heard the story: Internationally acclaimed concert violinist Joshua Bell once agreed to don street clothes and play his $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius violin in a Washington D.C. subway station, as a social experiment, sponsored by The Washington Post. (Watch the video on YouTube below.)

Lots of “what-iffing” and supposing was done in advance. What if he is recognized and a huge crowd gathers? What if he went unrecognized; wouldn’t people still recognize his extraordinary talent and the difficult pieces he was playing, and stop in their tracks to listen?

So what happened? Bell played six difficult pieces, for a total of 43 minutes. No one applauded after the pieces ended. A crowd never gathered. A very small number of people recognized Bell, and commented to him, but didn’t really linger. He collected $32.17 in his open violin case, but included in that was a $20 that one admirer gave him. By the way, Bell took a cab back and forth to his hotel, not because he’s lazy, but to protect the valuable violin.”

For more of this article,  click here.

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John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


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