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Olympics and Selection Synergy: Can Assessments Give You a Competitive Advantage?

December 17, 2015


Watching Usain Bolt destroy the field in trackthe Olympic 100-meter dash, I thought about the other 30 or so sprinters in the meet - how much better is Bolt than the field? Imagine you are the best sprinter in your entire country and one of the best in the world. You show up at the Olympics to run one heat and then sit down and watch. Well, the difference between Bolt and the bronze medal winner was only .16 seconds or 1.6%. At the bottom of the field are runners who are in the Top 30 in the world, but ran over 11 seconds, or about 16% worse - than Bolt. Still not that much of a difference.

This made me think about other sports. In golf, the top scoring pro averages 69.66 strokes per round. The 200th ranked player is still the 200th best player in the entire world, but in competition, that 5% difference means several wins for the top player each year, with Mr. 200 rarely making the cut, and millions of dollars in earnings difference. In team sports like baseball, there is only about a 5% performance differene in all key categories (batting average, ERA, slugging percentage) between the best and worst teams. That means that one team wins the World Series and the other finishes dead last, but when we look player by player, overall, the performance difference is only 5%.

In team sports, what we are seeing is the concept of "Selection Synergy" - the inevitable and steady ascendance of a competitive entity that continues to add people who are incrementally more talented than the competition. That last place baseball team is probably experiencing "Selection Entropy" - the inevitable and steady deterioration of a competitive entity that continues to add people who are incrementally less talented than the competition.

medalsEvery day, healthcare becomes more competitive. The difference in performance between excellent and mediocre is slim, but that difference impacts quality metrics, the patient experience, patient satisfaction scores, and now, reimbursement. Every day, you are hiring and promoting people. Think about how you make hiring and promotion decisions. Are you utilizing employee assessments to make those decisions? Do you apply structure and diligence to these decisions that are consistent with the concept of Selection Synergy? If not, you are hoping for bronze, at best, but more likely will be the sprinter who shows up to run one heat - and then watch the finals from the stands.

 Selection Strategies in Healthcare

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.