Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance – Book Review

It is taken for granted in the knowledge economy that companies must employ the most talented performers to compete and succeed. Many firms try to buy stars by luring them away from competitors. But Boris Groysberg shows what an uncertain and disastrous practice this can be.[i]

I recently read Chasing Stars, a new addition to the Intelliware professional library. It was surprisingly readable for an in-depth analysis of the US equity analysis industry.  The focus of the book, as the excerpt above illustrates, was the portability of talent; whether star performers continue to produce at high levels when they change organizations.  The general conclusion was that context and organizational support play a large part in helping top performers succeed.  Based on the research in the book, star performers working for organizations that support them with productivity tools, infrastructure, a collaborative culture, career growth opportunities, etc, do not typically perform anywhere nearly as well if they change organizations, and more often than not their performance suffers.  The greater the size of the organization from which the star performers leave, and the related size of that organization’s internal support network, relative to the size of the target organization, the more likely a negative outcome for the star and his/her new employer.

From everything I’ve seen so far at Intelliware, we are already doing a lot of the right things with respect to talent development.  In the interest of continuous improvement, here are some lessons for Intelliware (and other software development organizations):

1) Continue to hire raw talent and build stars over time.

  • Pursuing star talent from other outside organizations will not necessarily be of as much benefit to Intelliware as will be realized by hiring raw talent and developing top performers internally.  The supportive and collaborative culture upon which Intelliware is built needs to be emphasized further, to deepen the ties between employees and the organization.

2) Develop support structures to enhance staff experience for everyone;

  • Tools
    • Continue to develop internal technical infrastructure, environments, etc, attractive to developers to practice and enhance technical skills internally.
  • Network
    • Continue to develop internal community; foster mentor/mentee relationships, continue to invest in team building activities.
  • Growth Opportunities
    • Continue to foster growth of our personnel at all levels.
    • Educational; Continue to expand developers exposure to new tech via Lightening Talks, etc.
    • Training; Continue to encourage technical training, management training, Agile methodology training.
    • Presentations; Continue to foster an environment where sharing is encouraged, developing bonds between all members of the corporate community while developing soft skills, confidence of all Intelliware personnel.
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