Latest Blog

It's Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work (2-minute-clip from Margaret Heffernan)

The Architect October 10, 2016 Hub TV
It's Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work (2-minute-clip from Margaret Heffernan)

Margaret Heffernan on how individual superstars will never be as important for your company as well-oiled teams, told through a 60 second story involving Super-Chickens...


An evolutionary biologist at Purdue University named William Muir studied chickens. He was interested in productivity, I think something that concerns all of us. But it's easy to measure in chickens cause you just count the eggs.

He wanted to know what could make his chickens more productive so he devised a beautiful experiment; chickens live in groups, so first of all he selected just an average flock and he left it alone for 6 generations.

But then he created a group of the individually most productive chickens, you could call them Super-Chickens, and he put them together in a super flock. And each generation he selected ONLY the most productive for breeding.

After 6 generations had passed, what did he find? Well the first group, the average group, was doing just fine. They were all plump and fully-feathered and egg production had increased dramatically. What about the second group?

Well all but 3 were dead. They'd pecked the rest to death.

The individually productive chickens had only achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of the rest.

We don't need Superstars at Work

So I went and I sat in at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and what I saw there really surprised me. Because 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 talked to producers of hit albums they said 'Oh sure, we have lots of superstars in music. It's just, they don't last very long. It's the outstanding collaborators who enjoy the long careers because bringing out the best in others is how they found the best in themselves'.

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 mattered.

And when I reflected on my own career, and the extraordinary people I've had the privilege to work with, I realized how much more we could give each other if we just stopped trying to be Super-Chickens.

See more Hub clips on Leadership.

Watch the full TED talk here.

Phil Dourado

Phil Dourado is The Leadership Hub founder. He's the author of two leadership books. Phil and his team run an online leadership community of practice for one of the world's largest companies.