Entrepreneurial Talent: Insights from the Latest GTCI Report


The notion of talent is central to all stories of success. We can speak about high achieving talents in sports, find many historical accounts about talented leaders of countries and nations, and attribute business success to talented heads of organizations. Yet, behind these success stories of talented leaders in the field there are usually stories of talented coaches and advisors and employees. The real stories of success usually imply that there is more than a ‘single genius’ powering this success…

With an outlook towards the competitive business environment, the latest GTCI report (The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019) highlights that nowadays business success is not just about one omniscient leader, but also requires entrepreneurial talent humming throughout the whole organization. Echoing the notions of startup mindset discussed earlier in this blog, the GTCI authors see this entrepreneurial talent as an input for innovation, flexibility, activity and adaptability, which are so needed to navigate, take decisions and exploit market opportunities in a constantly shifting business environment. Notably, the working assumption of the authors is that entrepreneurial talent is not an innate quality that some to-be-leaders are born with, but a combination of skills that can be nurtured and developed under the right conditions.

Covering 125 countries in 2019, the GTCI authors indicate some key messages derived from the data:

  1. Talent competitiveness remains linked to GDP, and talent inequalities have increased

Comparing data across time, the authors of the report conclude that income per capita and talent performance remain highly correlated, while the gap separating talent champions from the rest keeps broadening. Given the notions of the right conditions for nurturing talent, such correlations and trends come as no surprise though. For example, in chapter two of the report, Alain Dehaze from The Adecco Group emphasizes that businesses need to be prepared for the future of work, need to have employees with the ability to learn, and have to commit to continuous training for workers. Indeed, a favorable environment for entrepreneurial talent is one in which people can re-skill and up-skill, which naturally implies an edge for wealthier countries.

  1. Everyone is interested in how to foster talent and how talent fosters their success

The GTCI database has constantly grown, which indicates increased interest in the topic as well. As the authors note, firms, cities and nations are becoming increasingly concerned not only with understanding how to foster talent, but also how to measure the impact of talent on business growth, job creation and innovation. Hereof, I would add that looking into the correlations between talent and business success at large makes a strong case for continuous efforts for attracting, nurturing and retaining talent. Caring for talent is not just a matter of HRM and peoples’ increased well-being, it is also a matter of general growth and competitiveness, which makes it a matter of the whole organization, its management and, ultimately, society.

  1. Entrepreneurial talent is vital far beyond start-ups

As entrepreneurial talent seems to be providing a competitive edge, it can also become a distinctive component between more and less successful enterprises and broaden the gap between talent champions and those, who lag behind. At the same time, investing into this talent can give the needed boost for growth and innovation. The report data suggest that this boost is vital not only for start-ups, smaller businesses and larger organizations, but also for governmental bodies and countries at large.

  1. Stimulating and nurturing entrepreneurial talent should be done in an entrepreneurial manner

Talent can be nurtured with a mixture of policies, management practices and incentives, which however, given the adaptive and innovative forces of this talent, cannot be homogenously applied. The GTCI report implies the need for radically new and different practices to nurture talent, depending on stages of development and the larger context of the business. In chapter five of the report, Frédéric Mazzella, Founder and Chairman of BlaBlaCar, shares some great examples of his own. For instance, BlaBlaCar promotes and focuses on learning, especially nurturing a growth mindset, through principles such as ‘Fail, Learn, Succeed’ and ‘Share More, Learn More’.

  1. The future of work will favor organizations and countries with entrepreneurial talent

Given the digitalization and continuous globalization, the future of work seems to require less salaried workers for routine and repetitive tasks, and instead sets demands for a more fluid talent market with relevant skills. As discussed in one of my previous blog posts, according to Tom Friedman global work moves towards work being disconnected from jobs—and from companies. Hence, maintaining a competitive edge will require ‘always being in beta version’ and sustaining passion and curiosity, which all seem to echo the concept of entrepreneurial talent.

  1. Entrepreneurial talent is in need of nurturing hubs

As noted earlier, entrepreneurial talent can be nurtured under the right circumstances. The authors of the report suggest that these right circumstances mean dynamic and especially open ecosystems, which reach beyond any specific organization. Regions and cities are expected to play a critical role in setting up such talent incubators and accelerators, especially by building talent strategies that target specific skills necessary in a given region.

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