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Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.

Tricky Equation

The professor in me says this question has too many confounds. You need to distinguish among the following:

  • a situation where a person has enormous talent but the situation did not mesh with the talents until a certain time (Churchill and de Gaulle in 1935);
  • a situation where a person had appreciable talents but was wrongly assumed to have lost it (e.g. Kurt Warner);
  • a situation where a talented person is called back and does a great job (Derek Bok, president of Harvard who had been out of office for 15 years when he was called in after Larry Summers' resignation); and
  • a talented person who is called back but his skills are no long appropriate for the job/context which has changed (An Wang of Wang computers and many other failed returnees in the high tech industries).
So the answer to the question needs to take into account the person's skills at time T; whether those skills remain at a high level at time Y; whether the skills have been used from time T to time Y or are wrongly assumed to have atrophied; whether conditions at time Y are significantly different from those at time T; and whether, if the person did not in the past need the skills required at time Y, can he/she get up to speed relatively quickly?

One more thing: Traditionally, Chinese society has been clever about this. They keep old timers around, give them honorific titles, and have the flexiblity of drawing on them as necessary. In a Western country, Deng Xiaoping might never have had a chance for a comeback.

We'll let the reader grade the student.

By Howard Gardner

 |  January 25, 2009; 9:30 PM ET
Category:  Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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