Silicon Valley criticized for over-valuing top talent

Here and Now

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Photo: Flickr user Andrew Feinberg)

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There's an escalating war for talent in Silicon valley, with companies resorting to "acqhiring," or buying up companies just to snatch away top engineers, sometimes paying in the millions for each star employee.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg justified the tactic recently, saying an exceptional employee is "100 times better than someone who is pretty good."

That led Bill Taylor to respond in the Harvard Business Review with a blog essay, "Great People Are Overrated." Taylor says claims like Zuckerberg's have a long history in American business, especially in Silicon valley, but long experience and serious research shows that companies are not made by stars, but by a culture that inculcates values like cooperation and humility. He points to the long term success of IBM as a counter example, as well as the success of sports teams that emphasize team work over star power.

Taylor wrote in his essay:

I'm certainly not suggesting that leaders who are growing companies or building teams should settle for mediocrity. But I am suggesting that there is more to long-term performance than the excellence of your individual players. Great teams, great companies, great organizations of all kinds are as much about character as credentials, about what makes people tick as much as what they know. Most of business life isn't really a choice between one great person and 100 pretty good people, but if that is the choice, I'm not sure I'd make the same choice as Mark Zuckerberg — especially if those 100 pretty good people work great as a team.

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