The Innovation Out-Performers

The Innovation Out-PerformersMarissa Mayer is doing some interesting things at Yahoo.

When it comes to HR practices, she is definitely taking some heat (banning remote work) and this also goes with their latest initiative in which she pushes for a forced ranking of the employees. As I read the article and visited links in it, I noticed these insights in particular:

“Basically, many people have lost faith that ranking employees works, and some research suggests that employee performance doesn’t follow a bell curve at all. Instead, most people are slightly worse than average (PDF), with a few superstars. And while a bit of pressure can motivate people, constantly pitting employees against one another is terrible for morale”
– Yahoo’s Latest Disaster: Ranking Worker’s on A Curve

“Other reasons for implementing the Bell curve include identification of top talent who are the differentiators. Normal distribution helps focus efforts on the high performers, seeks to reward and recognize them, offer opportunities for a faster paced growth and channel resources into investing in them to drive higher results in an organization’s performance.

The same applies for culling out non-performers by raising standards continuously, keeping the top performers challenged while churning out those who cannot keep with the renewed standards each year. This practice also helps leadership identify employees who rank first amongst equals.”
– The HR Professional’s Love-Hate Equation with the Bell Curve

The typical performer would fall below the mean or average result. So there would be approximately 80% below average, 10% around the middle, and 10% exceeding; meaning that the assumption that the typical performer is average is a myth of the normal distribution assumption. The results lend themselves to the ’80 / 20 rule’, which assumes at 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.”
– The Best and the Rest: Revisiting the Norm of Normality of Individual Performance

The insights in these articles really got me thinking on how this relates to innovation. The idea of out-perfomers makes sense to me when I look at my interactions with corporate innovation teams and their work.

This goes for R&D based innovation where some are brighter and smarter than others, but also on the innovation process itself. I have see many individuals playing outsized roles in getting their companies to embrace open innovation and bring it to a level where it really makes a difference today.

I am not yet fully sure what to make of the insights I discovered through the article on Yahoo, but it definitely got me thinking…

image credit: the line image from bigstock
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Stefan Lindegaard




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No Comments

  1. Marshall Barnes on November 15, 2013 at 10:26 am

    There’s two things that I saw here immediately. The first is that if the rule is 80/20 – 80% of the work done by 20% of the people, then why not fire the 80% that aren’t performing and higher more to the point where you have nothing but “out-performers”. You would probably be able to cut your employee costs because you wouldn’t need as many people as before because overall productivity would have been raised.

    The second thing I thought of was the alternate option – train the 80% to be more creative so that their productivity rises. That’s one thing I see missing a lot in the conversations on innovation here. I see many suggestions about how to use gimmicks and work-arounds and simple exercises to become more creative but very little, if any, discussions on how to get at the core of the creative self and build it up. To be Teslas instead of Edisons. After all, what’s more powerful than a creative team with a genius as a member? A creative team of all geniuses…

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