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The Savant's dilemma occurs when the only reliable method of receiving recognition for your work is to cease working on it, thereby letting the project or effort die.

This typically occurs as a younger person of abnormally high skill is transitioning through the ranks but has not yet been universally recognized for their contributions.

It is particularly likely when such a skilled person is placed on a project that includes more senior people of broader influence and visibility. The outperformer may have no real path to gain visibility since people not on the project will naturally assume the success of the project should be attributed mostly to the person(s) who already have greater visibility. As the outperformer contributes more and more to the project, a greater share of recognition is diverted away from them.

Once this situation occurs, it may be in the savant's interest to leave the project, and let it die. In doing so, the savant receives recognition in hindsight. By not leaving, the savant expands the misconception and hinders his or her career.

To avoid this, invisible savants should avoid being on projects from their beginning, unless they are given the senior role. They can join a troubled project mid-way through, even in a non-senior role, provided the state of the project is widely understood. Their addition to the project will prompt questions of "what changed", thereby giving them visibility in spite of the lack of official title.
What happened to project X, it sounded like it was going so well?

Bob left.

But he wasn't the lead on that, what's the problem?
Well, he's the one who actually was doing everything. He moved to project Y, which was a mess till he got there.
So it was the savant's dilemma?
Yeah, but at least he won't be in that situation again.
by theEngineerGuide August 05, 2018
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