Why Having Too Many Talented People on Your Team is a Bad Idea

According to a new book, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Psychological scientists Adam Galinksy and Maurice Schweitzer go over the research on cooperation and competition in their new book, “Friend and Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both,” according to Psychological Science.

Inspired by NBA team the Miami Heat — who managed to add LeBron James and Chris Bosh to a roster that already had Dwayne Wade in 2010 — Galinsky and organizational psychologist Roderick Swaab posited that the relationship between talent and team performance was not totally positively linear.

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For their study, Galinsky and Swaab analyzed a decade (2002-2012) of NBA data. The duo identified elite talent by whether they were selected for inclusion in the NBA All-Star game and if they were in the top third of their cohort. They then compared the data to play-by-play data and teams’ winning percentages.

The research team found that while elite players improved their teams’ performance, teams with too many top talents had less ball passing and thus a negative impact on winning. They named their finding the “too-much-talent effect.”

“A group of all-stars can easily tip the balance away from coordination and cooperation to competition and petty rivalry,” Galinsky and Schweitzer explain in their book.

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While an analysis of data from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) turned up similar results, the researchers found that the negative impact of too many good players was greater in sports that required team coordination for success.

“When we studied the relationship between talent and performance on baseball teams—for the same 10-year period we studied talent and performance on basketball teams—the benefits from attracting top talent were linear: the more talent, the better,” Galinsky and Schweitzer write.

According to the authors, their research applies to business since “companies and firms compete fiercely to attract the most talented individuals, presuming that ever higher levels of talent will produce better performance.”

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When an organization requires more team coordination, “more talent can lead to lackluster performance,” Galinsky and Schweitzer concluded.

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