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Talent Wants to Be Free

Talent Wants to Be Free: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free Riding

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Talent Wants to Be Free
    Book Description:

    This timely book challenges conventional business wisdom about competition, secrecy, motivation, and creativity. Orly Lobel, an internationally acclaimed expert in the law and economics of human capital, warns that a set of counterproductive mentalities are stifling innovation in many regions and companies. Lobel asks how innovators, entrepreneurs, research teams, and every one of us who experiences the occasional spark of creativity can triumph in today's innovation ecosystems.

    In every industry and every market, battles to recruit, retain, train, energize, and motivate the best people are fierce. From Facebook to Google, Coca-Cola to Intel, JetBlue to Mattel, Lobel uncovers specific factors that produce winners or losers in the talent wars. Combining original behavioral experiments with sharp observations of contemporary battles over ideas, secrets, and skill, Lobel identifies motivation, relationships, and mobility as the most important ingredients for successful innovation. Yet many companies embrace a control mentality-relying more on patents, copyright, branding, espionage, and aggressive restrictions of their own talent and secrets than on creative energies that are waiting to be unleashed. Lobel presents a set of positive changes in corporate strategies, industry norms, regional policies, and national laws that will incentivize talent flow, creativity, and growth. This vital and exciting reading reveals why everyone wins when talent is set free.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16641-5
    Subjects: Business, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-10)

    The story of one computer wiz’s rise as the creator of Facebook, an Internet social network system of global renown, has become engrained in our modern mythology. In 2002, fresh out of high school, a young upstart named Mark Zuckerberg arrives at the wealthiest university on earth and soon becomes the youngest self-made billionaire of the twenty-first century. He does so not by going to class and drinking up the wisdom of the distinguished Harvard faculty but by using his computer skills to connect us digitally. Along the way, as he reinvents social networking, he makes some enemies, lays the...


    • [PART ONE: Introduction]
      (pp. 11-12)

      It’s a war out there. We need good employees, and we are fighting over the most talented people. Our natural reaction to loss is to try and hold on. Managers, CEOs, and even economists often have those same kneejerk reactions and default to a control mentality. But what does control really do? Are they guarding the castle or self-inflicting injuries? Here is the conflict: companies desperately need independent minds in order to be competitive, but the act of jealously guarding those minds wilts their independence and stagnates economic growth.

      So how do we strike the right balance? We begin by...

    • CHAPTER ONE The Talent Wars
      (pp. 13-26)

      “Talent has become the world’s most sought-after commodity,” declared theEconomistin 2006. Since then, the war to acquire talent has become even fiercer. As the workplace has changed, the global economic landscape has flattened. In the not-so-distant past, the developing world, including China, India, Brazil, Eastern Europe, and the Persian Gulf countries, supplied cheap labor, while North America and a handful of European countries dominated the high-end labor market. But not anymore! The so-called Third World is catching up and presenting unprecedented challenges and competition. One indication of these changes is that, despite past traditions of lifetime employment and...

    • CHAPTER TWO Innovation’s Edge
      (pp. 27-46)

      In every industry, managers I talk to say their most valuable assets walk out the door to go home every night. General Mills is one of the world’s largest food companies, manufacturing and marketing such major brands as Betty Crocker, Cheerios, and Pillsbury. By the company’s own estimation, the departure of a single senior marketing executive can cost the company millions of dollars as marketing knowledge, client contacts, and personal relationships walk out the door with him.¹ Not surprisingly, a natural reaction is to vigilantly protect against loss. The protectionist mentality, however, is dangerous because it automatically frames job mobility...


    • [PART TWO: Introduction]
      (pp. 47-48)

      Can we draw a line between people and the knowledge they possess? Can the law protect secrets without restricting freedoms and mobility? Should we restrict those working for us from leaving and from developing ideas on their own? The truth of the matter is that companies must constantly search for new ideas outside their fields to serve as inputs into their internal research and development departments. For that to happen, though, firms must lower their guard to the outside environment, and that is easier said than done. As competitors, we face choices and conflicting pushes and pulls at every turn....

    • CHAPTER THREE Noncompete—Compete!
      (pp. 49-75)

      Acting much like the competitive world of athlete poaching, software companies practice what theWall Street Journalhas termed guerrilla recruiting.¹ The best “athletes” of leading companies—their most talented managers, engineers, marketers, and designers—are approached, often in secret, and, in what appears to be a sudden coup, the player announces his defection to assume a key position with the competitor. In 2008 guerrilla recruiting struck at IBM when Apple approached one of its key managers, Mark Papermaster. Steve Jobs, who until his untimely death in 2011 had inspired the world by leading the way in innovation and the...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Competition and the Miracle of Place
      (pp. 76-97)

      In thames valley, near London, is the world-renowned Motor Valley. What the Silicon Valley is to high tech, the Motor Valley is to race cars. The Motor Valley is responsible for the newest, most advanced high-end racing and sports cars. The region dominates the industry by producing Formula One cars, Indy cars, and the best sports cars in the world.

      Formula One has a history of radical innovation, and each year its new advances spread across the industry. This history coincides neatly with high rates of talent flow. It is common for drivers, designers, and engineers to move from one...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Top Secret—Not Secret!
      (pp. 98-120)

      Trade secrets are vital to any business that competes in our fast-paced markets. They’ve been called “the workhorse of technology transfer.”¹ More than ever before, we need to keep plans and ideas confidential to maintain a competitive edge. Yet trade secrets have also been called the “neglected orphan” of economic analysis.² Despite a consensus about their centrality, the scope and logic of trade secret protection are puzzle-ridden. Imagine you are the head of a successful production plant of a large electronics company. Your company has developed a highly secret and still unpatented process for producing methanol, giving you an important...

    • CHAPTER SIX Sharing and the Miracle of Cognitive Freedoms
      (pp. 121-140)

      My father likes to say, “If you want something, give it away.” That quote chimed in my head when I learned that Ben Franklin, one of the most talented and prolific inventors of all time, did not patent a single one of his inventions. Franklin believed that “as we benefit from the inventions of others, we should be glad to share our own … freely and gladly.” The world is notquiteso simple for companies, but they could stand to learn a thing or two from Ben.

      Intuitively, we know that secrecy and innovation are often at odds. It’s...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Mine—Yours (or Ours)
      (pp. 141-169)

      A killer instinct may jump-start our brainpower, upping our skills to the next level. In one of my favorite scenes from Stieg Larsson’sThe Girl Who Played with Firethe gifted but troubled protagonist Lisbeth Salander sets out to kill her murderous father. For months she has been wrestling with the solution to one of the thorniest of all algebraic problems: a problem that has fascinated mathematicians for centuries. Larsson goes to great lengths to tell his readers that the solution would not be found until the invention of powerful computers, yet through her use of sheer brainpower, in the...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Ownership and the Miracle of Innovation Motivation
      (pp. 170-196)

      To be human is to innovate. Human beings thrive on creativity. These aspects of our nature raise some fundamental questions. What drives us to engage in innovation in the arts and sciences? Is it innate passion? curiosity? play? the desire to learn? ambition? competition? the promise of wealth and fame? Psychology, sociology, business, and economics offer different perspectives on the motivation to innovate. Poets light the way. The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the following:

      In the elder days of art

      Builders wrought with greatest care

      Each minute and unseen

      For the Gods are everywhere

      When internally motivated, the...


    • CHAPTER NINE Talent Wars and the Entrepreneurial Spirit
      (pp. 199-217)

      If you pour a pot of gold into an infrastructure that cannot support it, the results may disappoint. To paraphrase George Orwell, in the world of talent wars all dollars are created equally, but some are more equal than others. Venture capital (VC) investments increase economic growth and entrepreneurship wherever they are injected. But the same investments yield different outcomes when background conditions vary. The lessons of innovation geographies, mobility, flow, and motivation have taught us that, far beyond raw dollar capital, the realm of human capital defines economic success. For a place to flourish it needs to nourish the...

    • CHAPTER TEN Win–Win–Win
      (pp. 218-244)

      Human capital controls are antitrust’s neglected stepchild. When Twitter was a fledgling company trying to figure out up from down, it needed other companies to fill the gaps in providing its services, which were promising but still relatively unknown. At first, outsider developers filled its needs for essential features and apps, such as streaming for mobile clients, photo sharing, URL shortcuts, and search enhancers. As Twitter grew larger, it began to look for opportunities to integrate these functions within the company and to cut loose from the outside developers that had supported its virtual ecosystem. It bought up some of...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 245-267)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 268-278)