Leaders have different ideas about the value of individual skill versus that of a team. Recently, two very successful and very visible business leaders have announced their preference for skilled individuals over a more cohesive, but perhaps less talented team. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg defended what he calls “acqhiring,” buying a business for its talent and not necessarily its product, by rationalizing that, “Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good,” according to a Bill Taylor’s Harvard Business Review blog.
Also mentioned in Taylor’s blog, is Marc Andreessen, who exactly echoed Zuckerberg’s sentiments. Now, both of these business leaders come from tech companies, Andreessen was a cofounder of Netscape, and it seems that they are mainly discussing tech talent — specifically computer programmers. They both seem emphatic that excellence is exponentially better than average.
But does this philosophy widely applicable across traditional business ventures? The answer is, probably not. Taylor details sports instances where cohesive teams fare better against those with well-known superstars (Miami’s LeBron James vs. the Dallas Mavericks or the Boston Bruins vs. the Vancouver Canucks).
Sports, though exciting and fun, aren’t always like business and Taylor references a study by Harvard Business School Professor, Boris Groysberg, who studied Wall Street talent and found that outstanding analysts were more successful when surrounded by their team than they are when they move to a new firm. Personal talent is promising, but its structural support is what really allows a talent to develop and shine.
So CEOs should take this into consideration when hiring. Though a talent may be outstanding and outshine all the rest, you need to make sure that they are surrounded by a cohesive, talented, and supportive team. Otherwise, even though Zuckerberg and Andreessen might disagree, studies show that your talents might not prove to be as successful as you’d hoped.