The Golden State Warriors are in the NBA Finals again, for the sixth time in the last eight years, and one of the surprise contributors is All-Star forward Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins spent the first five years of his career playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to Golden State in 2020. Though he was the first pick in the 2014 draft and averaged nearly 20 points a game for Minnesota, Wiggins was widely considered a disappointment.
What can be learned from Wiggins about what it takes to make stars successful?
The topic is addressed in a seminal paper in 2004 by Harvard Business School Prof. Boris Groysberg.
In “The Risky Business of Hiring Stars,” Groysberg and his team of researchers analyzed the movement of over 1,000 star Wall Street analysts and determined that when stars move, their performance goes down. And so does the effectiveness of the groups they left.
Why would this be? Ultimately, it’s due to performance being contextual to an organizational setting.
Yes, superstars are outliers in ability. But an organization’s output also is dependent on its systemic quality, not just an individual’s raw talent.
This explains Wiggins’ success in Golden State.
A low-key individual with enormous skills, he was asked to play the role of leader and culture changer for the Wolves. But the Wolves had major gaps on offense and defense. Wiggins could not change that.
In contrast, Wiggins wasn’t asked to do that with the Warriors. He can focus on using his talent to be part of a great defense led by All-Star Draymond Green, and a productive part of an offense led by Steph Curry, who’s destined for the Hall of Fame.
Wiggins has not been asked to be a change agent there, as he was in Minnesota.
The lesson here is not to expect individuals to change your culture.
Superstars, in sports or in business, are talented individuals who are part of a successful organization. So your mileage may vary with them, depending on your organization’s strengths and culture.
Isaac Cheifetz, a Twin Cities executive recruiter, can be reached through catalytic1.com.