There is this common belief that one organization can have “too much” talent and having “too much” talent is most likely not going to turn out well. Okay, this is a commonly held belief amongst sports teams, specifically, basketball. (All non-sport fan HR pros check out…WAIT!)
The concept happens when you have organizations build super teams. The reason we believe it will fail is mostly ego-driven. All of these superstars won’t be able to play together because they all want to be ‘the’ star and for the team to win and play well, you must take on a role. And, that role, might not have you being the star.
The Brooklyn Nets are this year’s version in the NBA of “too much” talent, with superstar players, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the newest addition, James Harden. All three are superstars.
Why do we feel an organization can have too much talent?
As ‘normal’ people, we have a hard time believing that someone who is great, a superstar, would be willing to share their glory. To take a backseat or play the second chair, for the good of the ‘team’. It is our belief that most people suck, apparently. Or, truthfully, we suck, because we are just projecting our own beliefs!
I like science and some researchers wanted to take a look at this phenomenon of super teams and too much talent. What did they find?
- Teams benefit, overall, from having more talented team members.
- The benefit decreases over time, but…
- More talent is never detrimental to team performance!
While a great team might start to get less great over time, that is mostly due to a lot of non-talent factors. Could be the age of athletes, less motivated to succeed, etc. But, still, the team is more successful, with the talent, than before.
How can we use this knowledge in normal, non-sport organizations?
First, we need to understand that all hiring managers are a bit hesitant to hire someone they feel is more talented than themselves. This is human nature, we all have this trait at some level. We want to protect the job we have, hiring someone great, no matter what we tell ourselves, we feel puts our own job at risk. This is normal, not a weakness.
The way around this is that everyone has to come together and acknowledge we all have this weakness. “Hey folks, we need to hire people better than ourselves if we want to become a super team. That said, we need to hold each other accountable to that end”
Second, we need to be able to measure “better”. What is better than you or me? How can I measure that in a candidate? That is truly an impossible task, for most professions and positions. At the very least, you must be able to look yourself in the mirror and ask the question, “Is this person better than me, or given the chance, could they become better than me and a decent time period?” “Can I help this person be better than me because they have some core skill sets I don’t have?”
Every CEO I’ve ever met wanted to hire better people for their company. Only a handful had the self-insight needed to truly hire better people. The first step to hiring better people is realizing you might not be the best! That’s hard for some executives to comprehend and admit. In fact, it’s hard for almost everyone to comprehend and admit!
You can not have too much talent on your team. You can not have too much talent on your team. You can not have too much talent on your team. You can have too many talented people who are assholes. That is something entirely different!