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Grow Your Business Your Team

Too Much Talent? Why It Can Be Bad Business

Too Much Talent? Why It Can Be Bad Business
Credit: Jirsak/Shutterstock

While businesses often look for the best of the best when hiring new employees, research finds that isn't always a winning strategy.

Certain types of businesses see performance drop when their organization is filled entirely with superstar employees, according to study published in the journal Psychological Science.

While talent is important, too much of it can be a bad thing, said Adam Galinsky, the study's co-author and a professor at Columbia Business School. This can be especially true when employees must work together to execute projects.

"If a team does not have a clear pecking order, status conflict and chaos emerges, and as a result the overall performance goes down because coordination goes down," Galinsky said in a statement. "Overall, our findings suggest that team coordination suffers when there is too much talent, because team members all try to be the alpha."

The study's authors came to their conclusions after studying a variety of team-based situations, including egg production in a chicken coop and 10 seasons of professional basketball and baseball. [See Related Story: Speak Up! Dissension Is Key to Successful Teamwork ]

When looking at egg production, the researchers discovered that when all high egg-producing chickens are put in the same coop, egg production actually goes down. Galinsky said the chickens start fighting for food and territory, and end up pecking each other to death.

"Without a pecking order, what we get is conflict and chaos and therefore worse team performance," Galinsky said.

The researchers also examined 10 seasons of the teams in the National Basketball Association. They discovered that having more talent was better, but only up to a point. After that point, more talent led to worse performance.

Galinsky said team performance suffered because the teams weren't passing the ball effectively.

"When you get too many talented basketball players together, status conflict emerges," he said. "They all want to be the alpha player and performance goes down because coordination goes down."

However, baseball teams don't suffer the same drop in performance when filled with superstar players, according to the research. The study's authors found that baseball is really an individual sport masquerading as a team sport and doesn't require the same level of coordination that basketball does.

"In this case, more talent was always better," Galinksy said.

The study's authors believe the research has important implications for businesses.

"If you have a team where people don't need to coordinate and are independent actors, more talent is always better, so hire the best of the best," Galinsky said. "However, if you have a team where its members must coordinate, hire a range of talent in order to produce the greatest success."

The study was co-authored by Roderick Swaab, an associate professor at INSEAD in France, Michael Schaerer, a PhD student at INSEAD, Eric Anicich, a PhD student at Columbia Business School, and Richard Ronay, an assistant professor at VU University in Amsterdam.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.