TED Talk Thursday: Margaret Heffernan on why it's time to forget the pecking order at work.
TED Talk Thursday: Margaret Heffernan on why it's time to forget the pecking order at work.

It’s time to ditch the superstars and focus on building a collaborative culture.

The world will not be saved by super men, super woman or super chickens. Yep, you heard it right—not even super chickens.

Business leader Margret Heffernan is challenging the roles of the workplace pecking order and suggests replacing superstars with fleeting achievements with a more community success model to help achieve the highest levels of success in business and the world.

This idea is based off of research conducted by Purdue University, where scientists set out to build a flock of successful chickens by selectively breeding the best of the flock. What should have amounted to a breed of “super chickens” turned out to be a lesson in the world around us. The “super chicken” flock ended up with only three living birds—the unfortunate result of the chickens killing each other off—while the original, “average” flock ended up thriving, plump and healthy. It turned out that the success of the “super chickens” was only found by eliminating the competition, and not by working together—that was the flock’s downfall.

The Super Chicken Theory is not only applicable in agriculture; it can also be applied to business models. The theory looks at how star employees only shine by suppressing the productivity of others. This behavior is detrimental to not only a team, but also to the organization as a whole.

Rather than rewarding employees only concerned with their own success, Heffernan says that companies should focus their attention on cultivating a culture of social connectedness built around the ideas of social capital.

“Social capital is built around the reliance and interdependency of people to build trust,” Heffernan said in her TED Talk. “This is what gives companies momentum and makes them robust.”

Building social capital does take time, though. Heffernan notes that this practice is essential when building trust between employees and allows them the freedom to communicate and have conflict in order to reach the best solutions.

“Companies don’t have ideas—only people do,” Heffernan said in her TED Talk.

Heffernan suggests that management needs to stop creating rivalry and pitting employees against each other, and instead motivate employees through social capital. That entails creating an environment where employees can get to know and trust each other. That’s when the best ideas and solutions are created.

“Leaders are no heroic soloists,” Heffernan said in her TED Talk. “Redefine leadership where conditions are changed to allow everyone to do their most creative thinking together.”

If this isn’t convincing, Heffernan spoke with members of the music industry to further solidify her point. And while they said there are many superstars, it’s the collaborators able to bring the best out of others who have the longest careers in music.

Watch the full video here.