Talent management lessons from Kim Kardashian

The clever thing about stupidity is that it sells, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Last Updated: 26 Jan 2016

Success depends on other people. There are many honest, talented and hard-working people in this world, but they will never be as successful as Kim Kardashian unless other people want to make them successful. In fact, you can succeed in life even by getting other people to hate you, so long as they love to hate you - the key is that they don't ignore you.

A talent for self-promotion often exists in the absence of any other talents. Nietzsche said that a person's virtues compete with each other: the more skills you have, the more difficult it is to focus on one. Therefore, the multi-talented person is cursed. Perhaps the biggest asset of Kim Kardashian is that she has only one skill, the ability to self-promote.

The clever thing about stupidity is that it sells. For the most part, normality and common sense are a lot more boring than stupidity, and when clever people are fascinated by stupidity, are they really that clever? Or is it that the object of their fascination is not as stupid as they may think? The implication for talent management is that even the most captivating topics of discussion may be utterly anti-intellectual, but saying that they are stupid won't make them go away. This is why the self-help industry, which has hijacked much of the leadership development literature, is here to stay.

Popular culture evolves by devolving. In retrospect, Paris Hilton was significantly more sophisticated than Kim. By the same token, the next Kim Kardashian will make the current Kim look refined. Culture advances through perpetual degeneration. Louis Armstrong was the Bruno Mars of the 20th century, and in 100 years historians will discuss Justin Bieber as they now discuss Elvis or the Beatles, and Russell Brand (the Kim Kardashian of ideas) as they once discussed Jean-Paul Sartre. If the past seems better than the present, it is because the future will be worse.

The difference between fame and talent can be as big as Kim Kardashian's bum. This is likely to happen when talent management malfunctions, because it elevates shameless self-promoters with no talent for leadership above their more talented, but low-key counterparts.

Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling, people analytics, and talent management. He is the CEO of Hogan Assessments and professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University. Follow Professor Chamorro-Premuzic on Twitter at @drtcp

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