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Companies should be an incubator for talent of all ages, Harvard professor tells leadership group.

If you think you’re smart at age 30, wait until you see how brilliant you can be at age 60. Or older.

That happy news was a key message in “The Further Reaches of Adult Development,” a lecture by Harvard University professor Robert Kegan. Part of the Leadership Lectures 2011 hosted by the Center for Leadership of the College of Business Administration at Florida International University (FIU), the lecture and a workshop took place on October 18, 2011. Kegan, an award-winning preeminent scholar, shared with nearly 100 guests what he has learned from thirty years of studying the potential for ongoing mental development in adulthood.

“Just a generation ago, brain scientists told us emphatically that there were no significant developments after our twenties, and any ‘wisdom’ associated with aging was the result of experience rather than the qualitative shifts in mental complexity we see in childhood and adolescence,” he said. “But our research shows that, in fact, many people continue to make such shifts well into the adult years, as well. There’s no stopping point, really.”

Kegan noted that this realization should indicate course corrections for savvy business leaders. 
“Our most successful and far-sighted leaders should be thinking, ‘Besides attracting new talent, how do I make my organization an incubator for developing the people I have right here in my group?’” he said.

Different points from presentations resonate for attendees.

Among the lecture attendees were Meredith Newman, professor and chair of the Department of Public Administration, and Modesto A. Maidique, FIU’s president emeritus and executive director of the center.

“Having Professor Kegan guide us through our mental immune system and putting down on paper my ‘big assumptions’ allowed me to see that some were not that important and could potentially hold me back,” Newman said. “Now I am even more curious to learn more.”

“The workshop and lecture provided a great opportunity for our community to interact with perhaps the world’s foremost thinker on adult development,” Maidique said. ”His research on the self-transforming mind dovetails with the center’s work on self-awareness as the key to effective decision making and leadership.”

Originally Published in  Wednesday, 11.02.11