Finding the “Superstar”

I’ve been watching a good number of national searches for a “superstar” in a variety of fields (software, academics, entrepreneurship).  Some of the ads mention that they’re looking for a “superstar.”  Some state they’re looking for a person “of national/international reknown.”

All of these search committees ought to consider this insightful post:

and, in particular, these quotes from it:

The “Economics of Superstars” observes that in some industries, marginally more talented people/groups generate exponentially more value


Most hiring processes assume that if you find a great developer and put them on a great team, the individual and team will do well.

and the kicker:

Software development [or academics or entrepreneurship], however, is more like rowing. It’s a team sport that requires skill and synchronization. This applies at all scales. On a three-person boat, one person out of sync will stall your boat. As you get bigger, no single developer can impact your team’s performance, so again synchronization is key.

Sports franchises have tried this … it may work for a season or two, but inevitably, the superstar fizzles, or moves on, or the whole experiment explodes.

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