I have too many battle scars from trying to be part of the superstar 20%. I do think they’re valuable. They’re definitely intrinsically motivated. They’re generally willing to try lots of crazy things. They can be super useful when you’re trying to put together a proof of concept. But if you keep going to them with the half-baked crazy ideas, you’re going to wear them out.
I think the danger, too, is that people tend to move down the scale with experience. As a young teacher, I was among the champions (or, at least, I thought I was). With time and experience, I moved down to the middle 60. I’m willing to make changes, but I want to see positive evidence first that this is direction we should be moving in. Compare it to a new version of Chrome: convince me that 71 is better than 70, and it’s not going to break something critical. Until you do that, I’m staying where I am.
The worry, though, at least with me, is that I seem to be moving to the bottom 20. The more times you get burned with bad initiatives or half baked ideas, the less likely you are to jump in to the next one. And I’ve been in the middle 60 on plenty of projects that didn’t reach critical mass. So even after being convinced to jump on board, it never really got off the ground.
As a consultant (I am not a consultant), I don’t think you can make a living on slow, consistent change that focuses on the middle 60. If you come in with a plan that says “this is going to take three years and tens of thousands of dollars before we see any real benefit” you’re not going to get the gig. You have to use the champions to get the green light to move forward with the middle 60.
Charlatan? Maybe. But I think you still need them to get much done.