You were probably taught, as we were, that all naturally occurring phenomena are distributed along a “normal” or Bell curve. Take talent, for example. In this case, very untalented people would make up a small percentage of a population (say, the people in your company), people more-or-less average talent-wise would make up most of them, and only a few would be extremely talented.
This may be all wrong.
A new study (full study here, description here) shows that talent in any most organizations is instead distributed along a Power Law or Paretian curve. That is: most people are not very talented, far fewer are of average talent, and a very few are extraordinarily talented and carry the ball for everyone else.
As you can imagine, this study has generated quite a bit of controversy, and the jury is certainly still out. But I can say that in every organization I’ve ever been involved in – start-ups, small companies, large multinationals, non-profits, and local interest groups – that it truly was a few talented people who delivered most of the results.
What to make of all this? Well, as we’ve often said, make sure you identify your extremely talented people, and nurture them. It is surprising how often management neglects to do this.