From the Desk of Brad Smart: Are Traditional or ‘Virtuoso’ Teams Best?

Harvard Business Review published a widely read and controversial article (linked here) based on a study of 20 leading companies. The article highlights how success was snatched from the jaws of defeat with geniuses stimulating competition in their teams for creative “ideas,” not just the performance of tasks like producing results.

My take is this: if you are a CEO, do NOT follow their advice … unless you are that genius who can control and focus the chaos “virtuoso” teams experience. Here is their summary chart:


My 40+ years of experience compels me to suggest to 99% of CEOs that they favor:

Skills over Availability. During the pandemic, with companies unable to find talent, we recommended hiring A Players who can learn ‘experience.’

Both Collective (but not consensus) AND Individual (solution based on merit). A Fortune500 company hired me to fix a horrible mess – the board decided to encourage competition among the top four producers for CEO. They slit each other’s throats so they all had to go, and the CFO became CEO.

Tasks (leaders HAVE to achieve the numbers) AND Ideas (and they HAVE to have execs with ideas). Bezos, Dell, Jobs, Musk, and Griffen all had reputations for being extremely demanding – outrageous at times. They demanded results and ideas.

Work Together over Remote (which can be ok at low levels).

Go after the sophisticated customer IN ORDER TO GET THE AVERAGE CUSTOMER. Most self-made billionaires want to rule the world. AI is proving there is no average customer – either get on board with sophisticated tech or lose.



Dr. Brad Smart is Founder and CEO of Topgrading, Inc. Topgrading is dedicated to helping companies of all sizes maximize the hiring of high performers. Topgrading assesses candidates for senior positions (where the costs of mis-hires are high) and trains all managers to create teams of almost all high performers.

Brad has seven published books on hiring; the most recent three (the first, second, and third editions of Topgrading) were all best sellers. Brad, and President Chris Mursau’s new book, Foolproof Hiring (Forbes Books), is available for purchase by clicking here. After just six weeks, Foolproof Hiring, has achieved Amazon Best Seller status.

Brad can be reached at

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