A short history of the future of talent management

From the university campus of the University of Amsterdam and trainingsfields of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona to the top of talent identification in sports and HR.

Fltr: Van der Leij, Castien en Sligte van BrainsFirst

Madrid, September 2009

We are at Real Madrid’s Ciudad Deportiva, the famous training ground where world-class football legends like Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo shaped their incredible skills. Where good is never good enough. 22 players grace the field today, Cristiano Ronaldo is there. He’s still the new kid for now.

For everyone there, except one, this is just another training session. The exception is Dutch journalist, writer and performance researcher Eric Castien. He feels like he just solved a very complex puzzle. Looking at the players in motion on the pitch, Castien feels he has an answer to the question:

“What makes the difference between a very good player and a world-class football pro?”

The answer is deceptively simple, it’s all in the mind. Castien sees it right in front of him. Cristiano Ronaldo is reacting faster, making use of spaces smarter, taking decisions quicker and anticipating even better than his already great team mates. In short, Ronaldo is simply playing smarter.

Looking at the training field, Castien knows what he needs to study: the brain.

Creating a new concept of Human Intelligence

Meanwhile, about 1500 kilometres up north in Amsterdam, two neuroscientist are working on their PhDs. Both are looking at how the brain forms our potential performance.

Fascinated by the concept of working memory, Dr. Ilja Sligte asks himself the question: “Are scores on cognitive functions helpful to predict someone’s ability to perform on a certain level?”

Andries van der Leij, a friend of Sligte’s, is deeply interested in differences in psycho-biological building blocks that determine individual performance potential. He uses fMRI-research to get valid answers.

Neither of them limit their questions to elite sports.

Elite performance insights available for your Club or Company

It would take three years for Van der Leij and Sligte to meet Eric Castien. Their deep knowledge of and boundless fascination for the human brain in relation to performance, laid a strong foundation under their mission: they decided to rewrite the rules of human performance, based on biological building blocks of the brain rather than on psychological constructs.

Not only applicable to sports, but valuable for HR too. In both fields of expertise, the urgent need to rethink human intelligence is evident. Fuelled by their inspiring vision to improve matching cognitive demand & supply, their company BrainsFirst is ready to disrupt talent identification at large.

After years of neuroscientific research, BrainsFirst has proven that brain functions distinguish the best from the rest. The Amsterdam-based company developed their NeurOlympics talent assessment games and is now able to make the complex simple. By launching reliable, science-based Talent identification tools for Business & Sports, the company is changing the expert hiring game.

Today clients like AZ Alkmaar, PSV Eindhoven, and clubs in Premier League, Bundesliga and Primera Division rely on BrainsFirst in their constant aim to improve talent recognition. At the same time companies such as McKinsey, ABN Amro, Deloitte and Air Traffic Control Schiphol benefit the same way. This is what happens when elite sports, cutting-edge neuroscience & machine learning (AI) are combined by professionals.