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Is it possible to have ‘too much’ talent?

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Is there such a thing as a “superstar saturation point”?

Directing all your efforts at attracting and retaining the most gifted candidates to join your company could backfire if you end up with too much of a good thing, a new study has found.

Researchers at Columbia University and other institutions discovered that an excess of top, high-achieving talent, could damage your company’s overall productivity levels.

“In many cases, too much talent can be the seed of failure,” the authors stated in the study, hinting at the possibility of there being a talent-saturation point which impacts performance negatively if crossed.

ALSO READ: 7 ways you can win the war for talent

In a series of experiments, researchers picked apart the relationship between talent and team performance by examining professional athletes playing in the National Basketball League, Premier League and Major League Baseball.

For all three sports, the researchers calculated the percentage of ‘elite’ players’ on each team, and then compared that number to the team’s overall performance (measured by its win-loss record).

When it came to baseball, their findings co-related to the conventional assumption that the more talent the better. But in basketball and soccer, this direct relationship didn’t hold.Instead, the researchers found that while the addition of talent was initially beneficial to performance, there was a saturation point. Once a team’s ratio of elite players to non-elite ones surpassed approximately 2:1, returns began to diminish.

Explaining the findings, the authors implied the level of co-dependance within teams might have an impact on the talent-saturation point.

“We predicted that this effect would occur only in contexts in which task interdependance is pronounced. Conversely, for independent tasks, we predicted that the relationship between talent and team-performance would never turn negative and that more talent would consistently lead to better performance.”

The authors also advised that organisational architects should be “wary that too much top talent can produce diminishing marginal returns and even decrease performance by hindering intra-team coordination”

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