Digital Learning

Tapping The Secret Sauce Of Top Performers

A simple card can reveal a child's talents. Time for education and training to help young people move into their Thrive Zones says Emer O’Donnell
A simple card can demonstrate so many natural talents

Children show their talents in the most unexpected ways. In August my five year old daughter handed me a blank sheet of paper and asked me to write on it ‘Don’t forget about Christmas, Mummy’.

I was aware that she was displaying a natural capacity for strategic thinking, by showing she can think ahead. It also told me that she had no problem delegating tasks and asking for help!

She took the paper back and placed a Christmas sticker on it. This highlighted her imagination and communication skills to make the picture look more attractive and relevant, in line with her message. 

She added a necklace and some coloured shapes, rolled it into a scroll and tied it up nicely in pink ribbon. She then handed it to me with a big smile. The smile, the gift of the necklace, the coloured shapes – these behaviours told me that she wished to influence, persuade and get her message across. In wrapping up the offering nicely she demonstrated creativity and presentation abilities.  She also showed overall organisational and planning skills with the ability to focus because she brought this project of hers together and was driving for an outcome.

Building the Thrive Zone

All these predisposed behavioural strengths, normally formed by the time we are six or seven, are the foundations of a Thrive Zone.

Quintillion Cognitive Technologies is a behavioural change technology company. We train schools and others to help young people map their behavioural predispositions.

Once recognised and developed, these are valuable leadership and real life skills – the very skills the future world of work and business is crying out for.  

However, the problem is that our young people often don’t appreciate and understand what skills and talents they naturally have, as these are not always recognised or nurtured during their development.

Where education and training fall down

Unfortunately, our education system has a huge focus on knowledge acquisition. It rarely focuses on developing individual self-awareness and behavioural understanding which support young people to recognise and develop their unique and valuable behavioural strengths. They need to be shown how to play to their strengths and to manage their behavioural gaps.  This is the secret sauce of top performers.  

Most career and skills training offers a generic programme without personalising the approach to the individual. This means young people don’t necessarily get the chance to focus on developing the right skills, in the right areas and often end up in work that doesn’t suit them. 

Pressure on young people in the age of Covid

A new approach is particularly needed now. The disproportionate impact on young people during an economic downturn is well documented.  With Covid however there are more complicating factors at play in young people’s lives:

* The negative impact of social isolation at a crucial point in their development journey

* Unprecedented economic uncertainty, where millions are set to lose their jobs in those very sectors that were the steppingstones for young people to enter the world of work

* The pressure to catch up on learning.  This is especially so for those in exam years, where they have been told good results are crucial because they have been established as the key gateway to access future opportunities

Economic recovery relies upon skilled and healthy young people contributing with their energy, ideas and expertise.  National economic prosperity requires talent to be fulfilled, but talent needs recognition. This drip, drip time bomb of uncertainty and pressure is worrying. It is vital our young people are not placed on a trajectory heading towards long-term unemployment. 

Earlier downturns have shown that the economic, psychological and social costs of long-term unemployment are substantial. Health professionals are very concerned about the longer-term impact of Covid on young people’s mental health, wellbeing and resilience.

If we cannot learn from the mistakes of the past, and support young people to develop their own Thrive Zone, the risk to mental health will increase. There have already been too many suicides in adolescence and each one costs £1.7 million. This number has been rising in the UK since 2018.

Taking a proactive approach

Instead of throwing money at generic training the government needs to support young people to recognise who they are. This is possible from the age of 12 years old. 

They need to know how to become problem solvers and creative thinkers. So, instead of asking themselves, ‘Where will I get a job?’ their question should be, ‘How can I find a job I will thrive in?’ or ‘How can I start to think about solving problems and create a job for myself?’  

We all have the capability of learning new behaviours. A more creative, problem solving, entrepreneurial mindset needs to be supported to ride the changing career waves of the future.

Far better we have an approach that is meaningful and personalised for this ‘Covid Generation’. That way, they may come to see that they are the real creators of their future lives.

I hope a new approach now will enable this young talent to emerge.  I know from my work at Quintillion this can be achieved. 

If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to contact me at Quintillion Cognitive Technologies Email:


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