Is Your Team Too Talented?

“The thinking is the same among managers of sports teams and corporate recruiters: if you want better performance, bring in more talent. And why not? If some talent is good, more talent should be even better,” according to Columbia Ideas at Work.

“However, new research shows that an excess of top-tier talent can drag down team performance, particularly when team members must work closely together.

teamSaid Professor Adam Galinsky: “When individuals within a team don’t have to rely on each other to get their work done, maximizing talent is a really good strategy. But when team members are interdependent, you can get the too-much-talent effect.”

“There are three potential relationships between talent and performance, Galinsky explains. The first is linear: adding more talent translates to better outcomes. The second results in diminishing marginal returns: bringing on additional highly talented team members produces smaller and smaller benefits. (Diminishing returns can also have a negative effect on the bottom line, because of the high costs of hiring top talent, Galinsky notes. This can be seen with Hollywood movies that seem overstocked with stars; adding big names may increase revenues but decrease the film’s profitability.) And the third results in the too-much-talent effect: adding more talent actually lowers the team’s performance.”

The results mirror similar findings in Psychological Science: “Most people believe that the relationship between talent and team performance is linear – the more their team is packed with talent, the better they will do. Yet our latest research documenting a ‘too-much-talent effect’, reveals that for teams requiring high levels of interdependence, like football and basketball, talent facilitates team performance… but only up to a point. Beyond this point, the benefits of adding more top talent will decrease and eventually hurt the team performance because they fail to coordinate their actions.”