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Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance [Hardcover]

by Boris Groysberg
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 19, 2010 0691127204 978-0691127200 1

It is taken for granted in the knowledge economy that companies must employ the most talented performers to compete and succeed. Many firms try to buy stars by luring them away from competitors. But Boris Groysberg shows what an uncertain and disastrous practice this can be.

After examining the careers of more than a thousand star analysts at Wall Street investment banks, and conducting more than two hundred frank interviews, Groysberg comes to a striking conclusion: star analysts who change firms suffer an immediate and lasting decline in performance. Their earlier excellence appears to have depended heavily on their former firms' general and proprietary resources, organizational cultures, networks, and colleagues. There are a few exceptions, such as stars who move with their teams and stars who switch to better firms. Female stars also perform better after changing jobs than their male counterparts do. But most stars who switch firms turn out to be meteors, quickly losing luster in their new settings.

Groysberg also explores how some Wall Street research departments are successfully growing, retaining, and deploying their own stars. Finally, the book examines how its findings apply to many other occupations, from general managers to football players.

Chasing Stars offers profound insights into the fundamental nature of outstanding performance. It also offers practical guidance to individuals on how to manage their careers strategically, and to companies on how to identify, develop, and keep talent.

Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2011 Gold Medal Book Award in the Operations Management/Productivity/TQM category, Axiom Business
One of the winners of the 2010 Best Business Books, strategy+business magazine for 2010

"[Boris Groysberg's] new book, a meticulous study of the performance of Wall Street analysts, asks the key question: is the success of individual 'star' employees transferable to other businesses? In other words, is it the team/institution that is key to the high performance or is it mainly down to the individual concerned?"--Stefan Stern, Financial Times

"[B]rilliant. . . . [T]he best business book of the year on human capital. . . . [Groysbergs] findings, and the force and richness of both his data and his presentation, should have an indelible effect on how we understand exceptional performance."--Sally Helgesen, Strategy + Business

"What if talent is more like an orchid, thriving in certain environments and dying in others? It's an interesting question, full of nature-versus-nurture overtones; we could debate it endlessly. But Boris Groysberg, a professor at Harvard Business School, has spoiled the debate with an unsporting move. He's gathered some data. And what he discovered forces us to rethink the argument."--Fast Company

"The book is fascinating reading, as Prof. Groysberg digs deeper into the implications for knowledge workers and portability of jobs. . . . [T]here are lessons in here for executives and knowledge workers in general and, more particularly, human resources officials concerned about the talent war for knowledge workers."--Harvey Schachter, Globe & Mail

"Chasing Stars is an important work challenging the myth that talented workers can succeed anywhere. It proves that the best employer-employee relationships are mutually beneficial and that both can gain much from each other if they try."--ForeWord

"Early in the summer, Paul DePodesta read a book that intrigued him. Its title was Chasing Stars. Its author was Boris Groysberg, an associate professor at Harvard Business School. Its thesis had a practical application that had yet to reveal itself to Mr. DePodesta. It did in November, when the Mets hired Mr. DePodesta to be their vice president of player development and amateur scouting. . . . [T]he most telling template for how they might return the Mets to prominence [is] Dr. Groysberg's examination of how businesses and organizations can create environments where talent can flourish. . . . Mr. DePodesta was . . . encouraged by the upshot of Dr. Groysberg's findings: The author could map out general conditions under which 'stars' would thrive in new organizations."--Mike Sielski, Wall Street Journal

"Chasing Stars highlights the key factors that improve the odds of successful job transitions. Build a network that extends beyond the confines of your research group and department. Evaluate the cultural and intellectual attributes and resources of a potential employer. Value those things above the monetary compensation in any offer package."--Peter S. Fiske, Nature

"Over 10 years, Groysberg--who is associated professor in the organisational behaviour unit at HBS--and his colleagues collected data on what happened to star analysts from Wall Street firms and their professional ranking when they moved to a rival firm. . . . The exhaustive study, examined in detail in Groysberg's new book Chasing Stars, came to an unexpected conclusion: stars who switched jobs generally did poorly, often for at least several years."--Australian Financial Review

"Given all the time and money that organisations spend wooing high-flyers to join their ranks, a few minutes spent absorbing the findings of Harvard Business School's Boris Groysberg would be a very wise investment."--Catherine Fox, Australian Financial Review

From the Inside Flap

"If you think winning the war for talent is the key to business success, Chasing Stars will be your wake-up call."--Peter Cappelli, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty

"The handful of dollars you spend on this book could save you a fortune in mis-hires. Groysberg's research sheds new light on the complex interplay between employers and their star talent. This is a must-read for leaders who prefer not to waste their time and money."--L. Kevin Kelly, CEO of the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles

"The moral of Boris Groysberg's fascinating story is that even the brightest stars fall when not supported by their team members. Chasing Stars shows that, well before the banking collapse, the stars of financial analysis were fallible, overpriced, and depended on their teams more than anyone realized. Let's hope this important lesson leads to more sensible staffing, compensation, and management practices in finance and all other markets for high-priced talent."--Thomas A. Kochan, MIT Sloan School of Management

"Backed by years of research, Boris Groysberg's book is filled with valuable lessons and unique insights for professionals in human capital-intensive industries. Both stars and their managers will profit from reading this thought-provoking work."--Chris Leavy, CIO of equities, OppenheimerFunds

"Chasing Stars addresses one of the most fundamental questions in management practice and in the literature of human resource management and organizational behavior: to what extent, and under what circumstances, is performance portable across work contexts? Although many firms chase stars, such efforts often end badly for all involved. This careful study of variations in performance has much to say about both theory and practice. Chasing Stars focuses on an important topic and is a wonderfully done piece of research."--Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford Graduate School of Business

"Groysberg's book is novel, provocative, and practical. It powerfully demonstrates the centrality of teamwork to any star's performance. Companies need to devote real resources and attention to creating developmental, collaborative cultures without stifling individual preeminence. The book's ideas resonate with my experience. Well done!"--Amy W. Schulman, senior vice president & general counsel, Pfizer

"This is a thoughtful and highly readable book with interesting and provocative implications."--Will Mitchell, Duke Universitys Fuqua School of Business

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (April 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691127204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691127200
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 3.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Boris Groysberg is on faculty in the Organizational Behavior unit at the Harvard Business School. He currently teaches the Managing Human Capital course in the second year elective course of the MBA program and in several Executive Education programs. Professor Groysberg's research focuses on the challenges of managing human capital at organizations. In particular, his work investigates how a firm can be systematic in achieving a sustainable competitive advantage by leveraging its star employees. He has written two books, Chasing Stars (Strategy + Business magazine's top book pick in the Human Capital category for 2010) and Talk, Inc., as well as many articles, notes, and case studies on how firms develop, hire, retain, and utilize their talent. Boris Groysberg has won numerous awards for his research on managing human capital. He has also advised firms on managing talent and executive leadership. Professor Groysberg holds a Doctor of Business Administration in Business Policy from Harvard Business School. Prior to joining the faculty, he worked at IBM.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!!! June 3, 2010
This book is fascinating and debunks the myth that star talent continues to perform at the same level, especially when they move to other firms for more money. It forces the hiring companies to rethink their strategy in hiring stars for high prices, and it should make the star rethink chasing another job that offers more pay. Its timing is perfect with the recent economic downturn and unemployment highs. It's a book that should be read by those who are hiring, and those being hired.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable and Important Study for Hiring Authorities January 12, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Our client Boards constantly are asking us to find them "trophy" CEOs and asking us to bring them "name brand" Board members. We argue, "If you want stars you better be prepared to pay for stars!"

Boris Groysberg of Harvard Business School asks a better question than we do: you want stars? Your assumption is that their star qualities are transferrable. How do you know your assumption is correct?"

This book provides an empirical answer to Professor Graysberg's more profound question.

That assumption is incorrect.

To develop his response, Groysberg analyzed a population called Wall Street investment analysts who work for investment banks. He looked at 1,000 investment analysts who had been ranked as superior by INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR MAGAZINE. He then compared this "star" group with 20,000 analysts at 400 investment banks who had not been ranked by INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR MAGAZINE.

If exceptional investment performance is a product of bright individuals, then when those bright individuals move from one investment bank to another, their ranks should remain constant or should rise back to high status after a short adjustment period.

It doesn't work out that way.....

It turns out that all the actors in the recruitment process discount firm specific culture and firm specific skills that allow excellence to flourish. And these specific factors are often difficult to transport to the new organization.

I can certainly agree with Professor Groysberg's conclusion that stars need onboarding when they move from one organization to another AND they seldom believe they need it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC!! MUST READ!! June 15, 2010
By Mandy
This book was a fast read, and kept me interested from its first to its last page! There were SO MANY interesting findings, and the one I enjoyed best was regarding star females, and how they tend to maintain their star status better than their male counterparts, when they change firms. I liked the examples, and I absolutely feel that this book is a MUST READ for anyone who is in the job market, or plans to join in. As the head of HR in my firm, I will surely be more careful about falling into the "winner's curse" trap when hiring high performing people. This book is gold! READ IT!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I cannot recall a prior time in U.S. business history when competition for talent was more severe than it is now and all indications suggest that it will become even more so in months and years to come. I know of no organization that has ever had "too much talent." It is also true that all organizations need effective leadership and management at all levels and in all areas of operation, although "Stars" or "Superstars," "Peak Performers," "A Players," "Level Fivers," etc. may not always be available to provide it. What to do? Organizations seem to have two primary options: Develop the talent needed from among its current workforce or hire it from another organization. Some organizations exercise both options, depending on the given needs.

What we have in this volume is an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can be if incalculable value to those who are in urgent need of understanding what Boris Groysberg characterizes as "the phenomenon of stardom -- of performers whose productivity massively outstrips that of their colleagues." Opinions are divided on numerous talent development issues. What drives outstanding performance? To what extent are skills portable or employer-specific in terms of the value and impact of their effective application? Groysberg wrote this book in response to these and other questions, each of which has profound implications both for organizations and for individuals.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Every manager should read this book November 3, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is a trasure trove of information on building technical teams and forging a winning culture

I can't put this book down, and even after reading it cover to cover, I keep going back to understand the nuances of the incredible amount of information contained in this book. If you are in a position that requires you to evaluate and hire technical contributors (designers, engineers, marketers...) this will guide the way you write your job descriptions, the way you see previous performance and even the decision of hiring vs promoting internally.
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