The Talent Pump

The recent brouhaha around Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter reminded me of something I saw on Ward Cunningham’s C2 Wiki many years ago: the talent pump. It works like this:

  1. In good times, the company expands rapidly, hiring as many people as they can. They get a normal, bell-curve distribution of ability.

  2. In bad times, the company contracts aggressively, encouraging people to leave voluntarily. The best people leave first, because they can most easily get new jobs.

  3. Repeat. Average distribution in, best people out. Average distribution in, best people out. Pretty soon, your company is decidedly below average.

If you’re in a leadership position, now’s a good time to ask yourself: have I created a talent pump?

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