Quite a lot, according to an article, “When ‘Stars” Migrate, Do They Still Perform Like Starts?” by Boris Groysberg, Lex Stan, and Robin Abrahams published in the MIT Sloan Management Review Fall 2008.
The authors studied portability, or how easily could an individual’s skills and knowledge, which constitute human capital, be transferred to a new organization and how quickly that individual could be successful.
Portability, they argue, depends on the preponderance of either general human capital, which can be applied in multiple organizations, or company specific skills which are not as portable. Economist Gary Becker first defined these two types of human capital and the authors expanded the definitions into five categories which they define as:
- General Management: the skills, knowledge, and traits required to manage.
- Strategic: specific experience in cost-cutting, driving growth, etc.
- Industry-specific: skills and training useful in one industry, but not in others
- Relationships: interpersonal relationships within a company
- Company-specific: knowledge of an organization’s routines and procedures
Portability decreases as an individual’s skill set moves from category 1 to category 5.
Studying this topic in business proved problematic since so many variables apply to stars in organizations. However, football provided an excellent case study because the success of the teams depends almost exclusively on the players and the information is public.
Examining the records of wide receivers, who have to work closely with teammates to succeed, and punters, who are individual contributors, from 1993 to 2002 demonstrated three important points:
- Wide receivers are less likely to perform as well as punters the first year after switching teams.
- The performance of wide receivers improves by the second season with a new team as the individuals build organization-specific human capital.
- Team owners and managers know this so punters moved 19.4%.while wide receivers changed teams only 8.3% of the time during the study.
How does this apply to CI positions? Top ranking CI professionals such as CI Evangelists score high on relationships and company knowledge while CI analysts must demonstrate CI skills independent of the organization to succeed.
This illustrates that analysts who are focused on information outside the company are more portable that higher level CI staff who are much more dependent on relationships to succeed.
However, a number of CI professionals have moved from industry to industry and are successful. Does this negate the comparisons with the authors’ categories? Actually, I think it reflects the fact that many organizations do not have adequate CI expertise in-house and cannot develop it internally. They recognize the need to hire from outside and that CI process expertise is portable. However, both the companies and the candidates must insure that sufficient time is allowed for new hires to build the relationships and the organization-specific knowledge key to CI. Otherwise, the CI person will fail and CI receive a black eye.
Bottom line, CI skills are portable; just make sure you have enough time to be successful.