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Is the overdose of talent in your team a positive trait?

Sweta Dash
28th Jul 2016
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Everyone wants to build a rockstar team with high performing individuals, irrespective of whether it is for a sports team or for an organisation. Like coaches give their best to include exceptional players for their team’s success, the HR department in an organisation also tries to hire the most talented and skilled candidates to ensure the growth of the organisation.

A research conducted by a team of psychological scientists, led by Adam Galinsky of Columbia University and Roderick Swaab of INSEAD, suggests that there is a limit to the benefit top talents bring to a team. According to the research, too much talent can actually be detrimental for the team.

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Two main findings of the research can be briefly summarised as follows:

1. The percentage of individual talent can affect intra-team coordination.

When a team is flooded with brilliant performers, the pursuit for personal stardom and success might put overall team success on the backseat. Like the example cited in the research, a basketball player chasing a point record may cost the team by taking risky shots instead of passing to a teammate who is open and ready to score.

If a team of talented writers is supposed to work together for a pitch, it is unlikely that they will share their best ideas with one another. They would, obviously, want to reserve their best for the top management in order to take due credit for it. Every individual talented person will want to steal the limelight and bask in the stardom.

2. High levels of top talent will be harmful in arenas that require coordinated, strategic efforts.

On the other hand, in areas where players need not be dependent on each other for success, the talent excess shows different results. For instance, if a sales team is supposed to prepare different sales pitches, its members will each try to deliver their best performance. Here, the performance of one does not affect the performance of another. As a result, everyone in the team will work with utmost dedication and sincerity. The ultimate efficiency and productivity of the team will remain high.

Based on these findings, these solutions are recommended: While hiring for teams with low levels of interdependence, like a sales team for example, it helps to hire the most talented and skilled individuals. However, the hiring process for teams with higher levels of interdependence should take a different route. One must consider hiring a blend of different levels of talent in the team. This will help avoid conflicts and ensure smooth performance. According to Swaab, “another option is to invest more in training team members on how to coordinate effectively in different situations. Establishing a legitimate hierarchy and formalising roles and responsibilities provides team members insight into what they must be able to do together without focusing their attention on jostling for intragroup rank.”

These insights should give you an idea of the performance of your own team. What is the approach you follow with your team? Do share your experiences in the comments below.

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