How Bell Labs Creates Star Performers – Difference in Productivity between Stars and Average Workers in Computing


In fields like computer programming, an eight-to-one difference between the productivity of stars and average workers has been reported. As one of the Bell Labs executives observed, “Ten to fifteen percent of our scientists and engineers are stars, while the vast majority are simply good, solid middle performers.” When asked why this is so, most managers come up with a variety of plausible explanations. Top performers, they say, have higher IQs. Or they’re better problem solvers, or driven by an enormous will to win. In other words, stars are better people in some fundamental sense, while middle performers lack the inborn traits that are necessary for more than solid plodding.

Source: Harvard Business Review, July 1993