Forget the “unicorn” — hiring a superstar or two won’t magically make your goals happen. That’s the problem with traditional hiring: it’s too focused on individuals.
Conventional hiring methods don’t encourage team-building and collaboration. Organizational psychologist Rachel Mendelowitz sums up the problem:
“The way we’ve set up our workforce drives a marketplace that pits individuals against one another, yet we are constantly encouraging them to collaborate and work together to innovate and drive results.”
Is there a better approach that avoids this conflict? Studies of team versus individual performance suggest there is.
Every tech recruiter knows the “10x developer” theory, but it’s not just another hiring catchphrase. It’s based on research conducted in a Yale University programming class, which found that among students who earned top grades, the fastest workers outpaced the slower ones by 10 times.
The study was led by Yale Professor Stanley Eisenstat and Joel Spolsky, founder of Fog Creek Software and Stack Exchange and a former student of Eisenstat’s. They analyzed several years of programming class data looking for correlations between the time spent on tasks and performance.
The authors of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time point out that the difference in team performance is even greater. They reference an analysis of data collected from roughly 3,800 projects in fields ranging from accounting to software development, offering some eye-opening statistics about team performance.
In that study, the fastest, top-performing teams weren’t just 10 times more productive than their slower counterparts, but up to 2,000 times. To put this in perspective, work that a top team could complete in one week might take an underperforming team 2,000 weeks.
London Business School professor Gary Hamel says hiring professionals must ask, “How do I aggregate talent and create an environment where we can do more collectively than we could ever do on our own?”
Harnessing that collective power means recognizing a great team isn’t just a collection of skills. Just as important is whether they inspire and enable each other to be better and do more. It’s the secret sauce fueling the rare teams that accomplish extraordinary things.
Building collaborative, dynamic teams requires individuals who each offer a blend of complementary character traits that leverage each other’s strengths and weaknesses.