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The Legend of the 10X Performer in Technology Companies...

If you haven't seen it, Business Week has an entire issue with one article only in it - on Coding.  Go check it out and spend a couple of hours digging into the 78 page article, because it's a great primer on something a lot of us refer to but spend little time talking about - the art of software development.  Since software is everywhere and eating the world, it makes sense for you to know more than you do.

One of the hundred things it digs into is the legend of the 10X Programmer.  Haven't heard of that?  The 10X Programmer theory basically says that there are programmers out there who are brilliant, and as a result, are 10X as Businessweek-code_gif productive in writing code than the average programmer.  Here's how the BusinessWeek article by Paul Ford handles this performance issue/legend:

"There’s even the legend of the 10x programmer, an individual who is just that much more productive than the proletariat. There is evidence that some programmers are much more productive than their equally experienced peers; but other studies have found this to be engineering folklore. Ten is an order of magnitude in a discipline that uses orders of magnitude to estimate things. Ten is an attractive and thus suspicious number.

Dream of 10x programmers if you will. But I wouldn’t hold out hope that one will come to work for you. You can’t hire them for the same reasons you can’t coach the Chicago Bulls and you aren’t often called upon to date supermodels of your preferred gender. They’re not interviewing at your crappy company for your crappy job. They’re not going to come and rescue your website; they’re not going to make you an app that puts mustaches on photos; they’re not going to listen to you when you offer them the chance to build the next Facebook, because, if they exist, they are busy building the real Facebook. Sometimes they’re thinking about higher mathematics, or how to help a self-driving car manage the ethical choice between running over a squirrel and driving off a cliff. Or they’re riding their bikes, or getting really into pottery. It’s hard to have a better life than a great programmer, as long as they’re unencumbered by physical or mental illness. 

If 10x programmers exist, they require 10x managers at 10x companies. There’s no shame in not being 10x yourself."

The money shot for me -they’re not going to listen to you when you offer them the chance to build the next Facebook, because, if they exist, they are busy building the real Facebook.  Word.

Also - If 10x programmers exist, they require 10x managers at 10x companies.  Boom.

So while 10X performers have been discounted by this article, the argument remains - are there 2X or 3X performers in your industry/functional area?  I'm betting there are.  But if you want them, you probably should focus on being a 3X company and a 3X HR pro/Manager.

 

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