Team Composition — All-stars, role players, or both?

I saw this post by Keith Sawyer a while ago about team composition (here).  There’s a teeny bit of jargon, but the results correspond to my experience.  I’m not sure that there’s an optimal mix, but neither all stars nor all-B players seems to work well. 

What is clear from the study Keith cites is that the motivation and performance of less-skilled team members (or IGM for “inferior group members”) improves when mixed in with superior performers.  The post’s comments are excellent, and Keith explains the why IGM motivation would increase in his comment:

There are two possible reasons why IGM motivation could increase in mixed groups: one is “upward social comparison,” the IGMs adjust their performance upward… the flip side of this is that the superior GMs would then be expected to adjust their performance downward…. The authors of this article note this too: “One frequent concern is that motivation gains of IGMs might come at the price of motivation losses by superior group members so that the overall gain for the group outcome might be nullified.”

The second reason is “social indispensability,” the IGM motivation goes up if they know their contribution is critical to the group product. But if the IGM senses that their contribution is NOT indispensable, their motivation goes down. That happens when, for example, the group’s performance is determined by the strongest individual performance, or when a poor performance by one member can be compensated for by another.

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