Today, Karina Degrez shares her vision of giftedness through the Gifted Interview. Thank you, Karine! Founder of “Act for Talents“, she is specialised in HR management, talent (bio)diversity and inclusive culture. She assists organisations looking for social impact, innovation and leverage for cultural and managerial transformation to make the shift to cognitive diversity. She currently lives in Nantes, France.
.WHAT BEING GIFTED MEANS TO ME
In fact, giftedness does not define me.
I don’t associate giftedness (being profoundly gifted) with what I “AM” but rather with how I “FEEL” (a sensory functioning) and how I “THINK” (a cognitive functioning).
It is part of me. That is why I prefer to say I LIVE WITH giftedness.
For me, it is like two sides of the same coin, made of light and shade. It allows me to find the balance between vulnerability and confidence, to put in place strategies to meet my specific needs, and to integrate its assets to multiply my strengths.
NB from Gloria: if you like this vision, you might be interested in the distinction between “being gifted” and “having” giftedness made by José Colleatte HERE.
.IF I HAD TO CHOOSE AN IMAGE OR A KEYWORD THAT SUMS UP WHAT GIFTEDNESS MEANS
Rather than reducing it to one characteristic, I would say that each of the characteristics of giftedness has, in its positive aspects, a utility.
I see giftedness as a piece of equipment:
- A weaving machine, to assemble all the subtle data and details perceived in one’s environment, and connect them to what has already been experienced.
- A radar or an antenna, which enables one to pick up weak signals (what others would not notice), to envisage what could happen (risks, threats, ruptures, trends, fundamental issues)
- A scanner, which allows us to see through what is visible and to perceive the finest nuances
- A fine-tooth comb, to untie knots and solve problems
.WHAT PHASES HAVE I GONE THROUGH SINCE MY DISCOVERY?
I needed to talk about it, to take the risk of not being understood (which was sometimes the case) but to better recognise myself!
I would say that a gifted individual has a strong capacity for reasoning and is able to process numerous variable data and parameters with multiple interactions.
.HOW DO I EXPLAIN IT TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER HEARD OF IT?
I would say that a gifted individual has a strong reasoning capacity and is able to process many variable data and parameters with multiple interactions.
The gifted person connects what he or she perceives of the outside world with his or her inner world. The way in which they perceive the world influences their experience and behaviour, but also the way in which they engage in situations of change, urgency and novelty.
She is not content with imposed models, she seeks to create new ones.
But it is not easy to generate innovation in a system that imposes its own models, processes and outcomes.
It is not easy to leave room for experimentation, in a system where error and vulnerability are seen only in terms of weakness or incapacity, powerlessness or risk factor.
Finally, it is not easy not to be bored by standard methods of reasoning that take complex subjects and divide them into separate small and simple units that are presented one by one, when one has a global reasoning, which itself works by association of ideas, and in a star shape.
To innovate you have to diverge, to take the risk of being wrong, to question what seemed to be known and obvious. And a gifted person often likes to unlearn, test and experiment.
If this way of thinking is not recognised and taken into account, it can be perceived as strange by those who do not process the same data and generate misunderstanding, even rejection.
And this is why many gifted people, after struggling, however clumsily, to be heard, will seek to hide, to conform, and to keep quiet … Unless they are able to take other paths to create and spread their own wings.
.THE REMARK WHICH BLEW ME AWAY MOST WHEN I TALKED ABOUT IT
“Giftedness is an excuse not to adapt!”
And yet that is the heart of the matter… Who is adapting to whom exactly?
The gifted person, a minority in his or her own environment (2% of individuals) can sometimes pay dearly for his or her adaptability.
But in my opinion, it is society as a whole that pays the price, without knowing it.
For more than ever, in order to face the major challenges of our societies, we need to think and act differently in order to arrive at different perspectives on a problem and more creative solutions.
.WHAT I HAVE ALLOWED MYSELF TO DO EVER SINCE
Learning to manage the energy invested and the energy available.
I am learning to function more efficiently. That is, not to try to be too driven by “Mrs. Perfect”, but rather to do the “right things” to maintain balance and performance.
.WHAT IRRITATES ME WITH GIFTEDNESS
Thank you for asking this question.
I would say the confusion of intelligence and achievement by both the gifted themselves and the non-gifted. Intelligence is above all culturally defined and the representations we have of intelligence stigmatise gifted people. Fortunately, there is no direct correlation between a person’s intelligence and their success. Intelligence interacts with the way we are brought up and the environment in which we evolve.
A gifted individual has a starting potential. The “seeds are in the ground”… yes but
The growth of a person, whether gifted or not (values, identity, vision, ambition), is subject to many other factors such as:
- His/her background (history, education, beliefs.),
- Her self-esteem/confidence,
- His interest/motivation,
- The definition of the goals themselves
- His environment
- But also some cognitive disorders…
For these reasons, every person, gifted or not, should take into account and work on these own factors, especially when there is a “suffering sensitivity” linked to one’s experience and personality.
.WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO EMPHASIZE ABOUT GIFTEDNESS
That of high sensitivity, which would be a class of intensity of general sensitivity shared by all human beings.
The trait of high sensitivity (in the sense of Elaine ARON) is often found in giftedness.
This class of intensity would lead many gifted people to notice things more intensely. However, this trait of high sensitivity is also found in many non-gifted people (around 20%).
High sensitivity would mark a deeper processing of information (i.e. a more thorough and elaborate processing or thinking strategy), over-stimulation, stronger emotional receptivity, empathy, and heightened sensitivity to subtleties.
Naturally if you see, feel, perceive what is in the environment more deeply, more completely, you become more aware of what is around you and therefore more easily over-stimulated and affected by these details. It is a balancing act between the outside (the time you spend in the world) and the inside (the time it takes to withdraw from the world)
NB from Gloria: High Sensitivity is not necessarily a characteristic of giftedness. Cévany, who was interviewed, shares her story as a gifted adult and non HSP here.
.WHAT I PERSONALLY LOVE
I like to think that giftedness brings natural and easy predispositions to do certain things. But I also like to think that this is not enough.
That the gifted person himself has his share of responsibility for identifying and developing what he does better and more easily than others, as much as the system in which he evolves (family, schools, companies, institutions) has an important role to play in providing a favourable soil and transforming these aptitudes into talent and advantage.
For when it has been accepted, integrated and can flourish in a supportive environment, giftedness can become pure wealth.
.A MISREPRESENTATION THAT I WANT TO CALL INTO QUESTION
There is the stereotype that a gifted person can’t hurt a fly.
If I caricature this, I can only be alarmed by this belief. I think that like any individual, a gifted person can have behaviours that are toxic and harmful.
.WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT CONCERNED
We need more than ever to learn to be united in diversity, to better accept those who are not like us. We are all each other’s atypical because we are above all complex and singular beings, gifted in some things, vulnerable in others.
Most gifted people do not have an overinflated ego, they just need to be included and recognised, so that their singular functioning allows them to contribute to something bigger than themselves.
.WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND TO SOMEONE WHO IS WONDERING IF HE / SHE IS GIFTED
Read, meet and above all don’t lock yourself into a stereotype of giftedness. You are a whole! Get to know yourself better with giftedness and evolve your own ways of thinking, organizing, and acting.
.THE MISTAKE NOT TO MAKE FOR A GIFTED PERSON
Remaining under the illusion that the system is “against him/her”, remaining with his/her own perception filters. Remaining with one’s own filters of perception and limiting beliefs to protect oneself or secure one’s identity (implicit conformity).
.MY PROFESSIONAL ADVICE FOR GIFTED
Easier said than done… But choose an environment, relationships, missions, achievements that leave room for meaning, authenticity, shared responsibility, continuous learning culture, systemic thinking, leadership. To have fun together and give the best of yourself collectively.
For companies looking for social impact, innovation and leverage for transformation, entrust gifted people with responsibilities that will include degrees of freedom and transversality, difficult files or projects with complex stakes (even if this is outside the scope of their mission/achievements), and give them the means to act.
And for recruiters, a complex CV is not a sign of incompetence or instability. Going for pure richness requires exploration and preparation and not limiting oneself to personality tests or classic interview formats. Going beyond the visible and one’s own biases, by recruiting from a coaching position: Questioning the ability to see the essential and to make decisions, the speed of execution and resolutions, the need for freedom of action and confidence, curiosity, high energy level, empathy and appetite for human relations, the ability to be a whistleblower, the quest for truth and justice, the natural ease of linking different disciplines and different ideas that are sometimes far apart and which no one had previously brought together, the rapid mastery of techniques and technologies in different fields, the ability to undo and redo processes, rethink organisations, strategies and complex audits.
.MY OPINION ABOUT THE IQ WAIS TEST
The IQ test is only a measure of cognition and you can’t reduce a person to their brain!
I was lucky enough to be accompanied by a cognitive psychologist who is very involved in the knowledge of giftedness, and who was able to take into account all the dimensions of giftedness, my background and my personality during and after the assessment.
I was able to realise, particularly during the assessment, that the emotional and physiological state, the psychological disposition and the support of the professional have an impact on the process and therefore on the result.
I also became aware that disorders can also influence the results and highlight other adaptation needs.
.IS IT A WASTE NOT TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE GIFTED?
I will answer only for myself. I will simply say that I would have missed a part of myself. The puzzle would have been incomplete. But the knowledge wasn’t enough, I needed it to be useful 😉
The knowledge allowed me to better accompany myself first, then to accompany my children, friends and my network, to realize and support a research thesis on the challenges for the company to include cognitive diversity at work. Finally, I want to train myself on the accompaniment of high sensitivity to help individuals and organisations to take care of this “sensitive” dimension.
.WHAT DO GIFTED PEOPLE HAVE IN COMMON?
What seems to me to be common in giftedness is access to COMPLEXITY and INTENSE functioning.
But then, as I said, there are many factors to take into account in the pathway, but also personality variants (level of high sensitivity, introvert/extravert, sensation-seeking or not), and finally other exceptionalities (DYS disorders, ASD, ADHD).
.THE CRUCIAL STEPS NOT TO BE MISSED IN THE JOURNEY OF A GIFTED PERSON?
I think that understanding that the way in which giftedness is experienced reflects a part of oneself that must be explored. Then it is essential to assume and defend one’s ego with accuracy, and to live the link with the other in co-responsibility, i.e. without being a victim, a saviour or a persecutor of the other, without power games or influence.
.THE LAST THING I LEARNED ON THE SUBJECT (THAT I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE)
“To drive innovation that will fuel growth, companies need more than ever both creative thinkers and problem solvers. Diverse teams are better at finding ingenious solutions than groups of people – even brilliant ones – who think in the same way.” Capital magazine makes the link between collective intelligence, innovation and growth.
The article is based on the research of Scott Page, a professor at the University of Michigan where he also directs the Center for the Study of Complex Systems. In his book, he argues that diversity matters more than talent: “Progress and innovation may depend less on bright, high-IQ individuals working in isolation than on diverse teams working together and capitalising on their individuality“.
.A HUNCH ON THE SUBJECT
Man has never been so powerful, but never so vulnerable as today.
Powerful, because in 150 years it has been able to create great technological, economic and social advances.
But vulnerable, because mankind must now face up to the many fragilities and imbalances that he himself has helped to create (climate change and disappearance of biodiversity, social isolation, etc.).
In my opinion, giftedness is a reflection of these two polarities.
Powerful because these profiles have advanced cerebral skills that enable them to perceive and process information differently and allow them to see the world differently.
But vulnerable: because gifted people are stigmatised by their visible or invisible differences (way of thinking, social behaviour) and their career path which is sometimes as brilliant as it is incomprehensible. In difficulty because of the system’s inability to recognise their potential and take into account their particular needs
If we took the time to think in a different way about all forms of intelligence and to make them work together, we would be able to include and develop the potential of profiles capable of facing complex problems, capable of coping with unpredictability and uncertainty, and of producing effective solutions, particularly in a context of crisis or transformation, for the benefit of the group and society as a whole.
.THE MISSING QUESTION, WHICH I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO ANSWER ON THE SUBJECT?
I would especially like to give voice to a community of people and organisations that have been able to include this diversity in their own system and let them testify to the positive impacts that this inclusion has had in terms of innovation and collective intelligence.
NB from Gloria: if you recognise yourself or your organisation, please reach out here.