A Purdue University evolutionary scientist studied chicken egg-laying productivity. He selected just an average flock, and let it alone for six generations. He also created a second flock of only the most productive chickens for breeding -- a.k.a. super-chickens. After six generations the average group’s egg production had increased dramatically. In the super chicken group, only three chickens survived. They'd pecked the rest to death. As author Margaret Heffernan notes in her Ted talk on competition ,”The individually productive chickens had achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of the rest.”
Heffernan notes that many people compare that super-flock of “killer pecking chickens” to their own companies which reward ultra competition. Even with the mounting body of evidence demonstrating that groups that collaborate effectively far outperform individuals, most of us have been encouraged throughout life to compete in most everything—from youth sports to college admissions to “climbing the corporate ladder.”
Must collaboration undermine an individual’s drive to shine? Heffernan says no. As she points out, people we think of as “stars” are really highly skilled collaborators. Notes Hefferman, “I sat in on the auditions at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. And what I saw there really surprised me. The teachers weren't looking for individual pyrotechnics. They were looking for what happened between the students, because that's where the drama is…And when I went to visit companies that are renowned for their ingenuity and creativity, I couldn't even see any superstars, because everybody there really matters.”
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