ATD ICE 2018 Keynote Recap: Marcus Buckingham

Keynote: Marcus Buckingham

Marcus begins by discussing the research he’s at ATD ICE to conduct. He explains his process for conducting this research. Using marriage as an example, he explains how if you study all of the unhappy and happy marriages, there is one thing in common: people argue a lot. Following the logic that good is the opposite of bad, so for a really good marriage, don’t fight. But this isn’t true. It’s the space between the fights that defines a really good marriage – the fights are a way to reconnect.

“You can’t infer what excellence looks like by studying failure.” (Buckingham, 2018)

They found a number of misconceptions…or lies…within their research. It’s very hard to stay on top of talent when you’re looking at a series of lies about work:

  1. People care which company they work for
  2. The best plan wins
  3. The best companies cascade goals
  4. Well-rounded people are better
  5. People crave feedback
  6. People can reliably rate other people
  7. People have potential
  8. We should seek work/life balance
  9. ‘Leadership’ is a thing

These nine lies are all about how we get the most out of talent. Work is a magnificent place in which a person gets to manifest their talent, but we can’t do it if we’re operating on the wrong assumptions or beliefs.

“Be dangerous.” (Buckingham, 2018)

Think about an outcome that can really get you to focus.

“Learning is helping someone discover the patterns that are already there. Learning is insight.” (Buckingham, 2018)

He explains that talent develops only because of other humans (recognizing your potential).

Overall: Marcus’ session was great, but he’s a very fast speaker, so I found it quite challenging to draft a comprehensive blog post for this keynote – my apologies.


  1. says

    He expanded quite a bit on Lie # 4, Well-rounded people are better. Soccer (football) superstar Lionel Messi was the example. Marcus pointed out that the most successful people aren’t well-rounded, but have unique talents that are polished. In Messi’s case, it’s his powerful, but yet nimble and agile, left foot. Imagine what would have happened if some coach told Messi to use his right foot more. Instead, Messi focused on his strength. The analogy was powerful, yet in some post keynote comments, I heard people say that this may be true for superstars, but many leaders in organizations aren’t superstars and are required to be well-rounded.

    Marcus also brought up the example of how we deal with raising children, and used the example of his own kids and a night at an open house at kindergarten. The overall theme is that parents are horrified when we discover weaknesses in our children and will go to lengths to help our children conform to social norms, instead of choosing to help them develop their strengths.

    Marcus is a powerful speaker. Toward the end, his analogy of the Red Thread that mentioned that we only need 20% of our working lives to be woven by the powerful red thread fell flat for the simple reason that the analogy seemed to create it’s own storyline that didn’t particularly relate to the world of training.

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