Talent Development: learning from cross-sectoral research.

In March 2013, Creative Scotland awarded a grant to researchers from the University of Glasgow and The Glasgow School of Art to conduct a research and seminar series on Talent Development. The research team adopted a qualitative approach to this project, based on an adaptation of grounded theory. To this end, the research team designed a method of constant comparison, testing and refining emerging ideas based on literature review, two seminars and 23 interviews that would allow participants involved in talent development either as part of their everyday role or who had been considered as talented individuals in their field to explore their own ideas related to talent and how it is developed. While the key focus of the inquiry was the creative and cultural sectors, other sectors, notably sport and business, also provided insights into their approaches to and experiences of talent development.


The major themes that emerged from the research point towards an understanding of talent and talent development that comprises 5 overlapping components, which, in optimum combination may produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.


All sectors agreed that talent is only developed with hard work, stamina, dedication and routine over extended periods of time. Developable and sustainable talent is dependent upon the individual’s capacity to welcome challenge and receive and act upon feedback.


Given the right context, support and confidence, individuals can successfully engage in cultural, sporting and business activity, and talent as a concept can take a back seat. The ecology for talent development should accommodate approaches that build on suitable opportunities for participation.


An egalitarian perspective raised the issue of opportunities for willing individuals of less immediately obvious ‘suitable ability’ and not just high ability, based on a maxim of ‘retention not selection’.


Talent is recognised across sectors as linked to something: an individual is talented at something. Talent is often discerned after the naming of that thing that one can be rightly talented at – the objects of talent’s attention are named by context and contingency, and can legitimise and circumscribe where talent is to be found.


All sectors recognised that however contested talent is as a concept, it is a socially embedded phenomenon, something that pertains to the individual and the surrounding team.

PI and Co-Is

PI - Dr George Head, University of Glasgow, School of Eduction and Professor Ken Neil, Glasgow School of Art

Start and End Date

March 2013 to November 2014

Funder and Funding Amount

Creative Scotland. £45,612.00