We like to conceptualise talent as something that comes inherently to us — something that we’re born with that can show at a young age. While there is an element of talent that comes from somewhere we can’t explain (which perhaps means we’re born with it), there’s also an element that we often forget when we see a great painting, or look at someone who solves incredibly complex problems. This is something we can learn from Paloma Noyola Bueno, pictured here.
Named “The Next Steve Jobs” by Wired Magazine in November, Paloma is a fifth grader from Mexico who has scored first place in math and third place in Spanish on a national test. She represents a new system of education within Matamoros, Tamaulipas, a city in the north of Mexico that doesn’t have the same reputation as Silicon Valley.
Despite the surrounding obstacles of drug related crime and high rates of violence, Paloma’s school, the Jose Urbina Lopez School, and her teacher, Sergio Juarez Correa (in photo with Paloma above), have taken a new approach to education that has captured the nation.
By placing students in small groups in order to learn form each other, Correa inspired students to engage in learning via their own curiosity and taught them based on their interests, bringing information that was most relevant to him. The results speak for themselves.
Paloma is notable not just because of her high scores, but because she has the scores in a country where only 29% of the population of Mexico make it beyond secondary school. With 45% of her previous generation failing math and 31% not passing Spanish, Paloma is a high achiever in a new year of students where only 7% are failing math and 3.5% Spanish. And all of this is a result not just of Paloma’s hard work, but the environment which nurtured her own intellectual interests.
What does this teach us about talent and skill? Yes, there are some things, some talents, which we have an affinity for, but partially our environments can help or hinder us in the process of developing those talents. It wasn’t as if Paloma didn’t have the potential to become the next Steve Jobs herself, but having the right environment to bring that out within her actualised her potential.
If businesses want to actualise the potential of their employees, perhaps they should take a note out of Paloma’s teacher Correa’s book and engage their staff by focusing first on their own interests, which motivates them to learn. We develop our talents and skills into larger than life achievements first and foremost because they hold our interest. By honing in on what interests employees and utilising that in order to provoke interaction and development, businesses may find their own Paloma Noyola Bueno.
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Lola Olson is Lola Olson is a freelance writer and marketer who creates content, manages social media, and advises on marketing strategies for multiple companies and charities, primarily working with Wazoku, an idea management company, Find Invest Grow, an investment company, and several other organisations.