Monday, June 25, 2018

Are There Too Many All-Stars on Your Team?

When an important project must be completed, do leaders assign the best players to a team? Do they look for the superstars who can tackle this challenge? Research by John Hildreth and Cameron Anderson suggests that teams can suffer when too many all-stars are assembled together.   These scholars conducted a series of experimental studies in which they examined the creativity of groups consisting of high-power individuals versus groups with a mix of people with differing levels of power.  Here's the conclusion from their research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2016:  

Source:  Wikimedia Commons
Our research posed the question of how leaders’ power affects their ability to work with other leaders. The answer we found was disheartening. When individuals with power are assembled to work as a group on difficult issues, their power had a negative effect on their group’s collective performance. Groups comprised of more high power individuals, be they students given temporary power or executives endowed with actual organizational power, perform worse than groups comprised of neutral or low power individuals. And, these detrimental effects of power on group performance are explained in part by members of these groups experiencing higher levels of status conflict, being less focused on the task at hand and sharing information less effectively with each other compared to other groups. 

Writing about this research and other studies similar to it, David Rock and Mary Slaughter of the NeuroLeadership Institute conclude that, "While a few a-players can be enormously helpful, it’s possible that success is not about out-hiring the competition for these people. It is more about how you form teams, and then how people work together as teams." Indeed, their conclusion parallels the insights from Google's Project Aristotle, where the company tried to identify the attributes of the "rock-star teams" at the search giant. At Google, researcher Julia Rozovsky concluded that, "Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions."  I could not agree more with this insight.  Talent is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for team success.  Moreover, much like any great sports team, role players are important. Not everyone can be LeBron James.  

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