Plato, Competencies and the Ideal Employee

By Mark Vickers

Maybe you have a vague recollection of Plato from your college days. You know, the Greek philosopher who believed in the existence of some ideal world that's separate from our physical world? He is, of course, the source of the term "Platonic ideal."

Whether we know it or not, most modern managers have a Platonist streak in them, a streak that often shows up in the way we think about talent these days.

The term "talent" is in itself a useful abstraction, shorthand for employees who have the kinds of skills, potential, attitudes and values that companies need to succeed. It suggests that a lot of organizations have an ideal employee in mind when it comes to their labor needs.

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