I really enjoyed Joel Spolsky’s latest essay, Hitting the High Notes, where he talks about how to have a successful software company you really need to hire the best programmers. It’s full of good lines, like:
The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good ones is that no matter how long they work, they never produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce.
Five Antonio Salieris won’t produce Mozart’s Requiem. Ever. Not if they work for 100 years.
Five Jim Davis’s — creator of that unfunny cartoon cat, where 20% of the jokes are about how Monday sucks and the rest are about how much the cat likes lasagna (and those are the punchlines!) … five Jim Davis’s could spend the rest of their lives writing comedy and never, ever produce the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld.
The Creative Zen team could spend years refining their ugly iPod knockoffs and never produce as beautiful, satisfying, and elegant a player as the Apple iPod. And they’re not going to make a dent in Apple’s market share because the magical design talent is just not there. They don’t have it.
The mediocre talent just never hits the high notes that the top talent hits all the time. The number of divas who can hit the f6 in Mozart’s Queen of the Night is vanishingly small, and you just can’t perform The Queen of the Night without that famous f6.
You really should go read it.