Fred Brooks started it all. In The Mythical Man Month, he quotes a study saying
individual difference between low and high performers can vary by an order of magnitude
Since then this myth of 10x productivity difference has persisted in our industry.
Nowadays it’s best seen in the use of words like rockstar, guru or wizard in job descriptions.
But is it really a myth, or reality?
It’s undeniable that individual differences exist. Not everybody can write an operating system kernel, a concurrent collection library, or cryptocurrency protocol. These achievements are examples of outstanding technical expertise.
Like in sports, the distribution of talent is skewed, and there are outliers that outperform others.
But here’s the catch: the 10x developer isn’t working 10x faster, he’s thinking differently. The 10x developer finds new way to address problems.
He doesn’t deal with complexity better. He finds way to avoid complexity altogether. Not occasionally, but systematically, as part of his work ethics.
A 10x developer is also a force multiplier. His actions make the work of several people easier. He inspires other to achieve excellence and clone his habits. The payoff can go above 10x.
So, myth or reality?
For me, reality. But such developers are very rare. Over the last 10 years I’ve only met one.
- Great Hackers, by Paul Graham
- What is the truth of 10x programmers?
- The 10x developer is NOT a myth
- On the Myth of the 10X Engineer
- The 100x Engineer