top of page

Optimal performance vs. Typical performance

Around 25 minutes into this podcast (link below) Adam Grant and Malcom Gladwell start to talk about athletic ability, and then it morphs into the concept of optimal performance vs typical performance.

“It’s better to be consistently good than intermittently excellent.”

“Often in sports, and we do this when we hire too, we want to see how good they are at their best.”

An interesting concept to think about. When interviewing candidates, it’s common to steer the conversation toward stories that highlight optimal performance.

So this begs the question, how do we assess not only for those exceptional moments, but also for what’s typical?

My two cents: it comes down to two things.

#1 It’s all about the “how”.

How people get things done is equally important to what they have done. Their “how” will be in their playbook, and they’ll call to it again. We can dig on a “how” with lots of great follow up questions.

#2 Assessing in the in-between.

Interviewing for a position doesn’t end when the conversation is over. How candidates act through the entire process matters. It’s up to everyone involved to pay attention and surface any question marks.

-Taken for Granted: Malcolm Gladwell Questions Everythin‪g‬ -WorkLife with Adam Grant

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page