Brain Drain

Groups such as countries, corporations and Ancient Conspiracies need a lot of talented people in order to function. One way to get that is to recruit from each other. This can easily result in one of them just keep sliding backwards, losing their competent and talented people to others and thus becoming less and less competent and talented as a group.

This phenomenon is quite widespread in Real Life, as the other Wiki can testify.

In a way, Brain Drain is the opposite of The Peter Principle. However these are opposites that happily coexist and help each other making life a living hell for those who remain: The talented move on elsewhere, while the less talented gets promoted to positions they are incompetent for - which can easily lead to becoming a Pointy-Haired Boss.

In individual cases, The Peter Principle can also be used to subvert Brain Drain - as it turns out that the new guy wasn't so talented after all.


  • In Atlas Shrugged this is John Galt's major plan: to drain ALL OF AMERICA
  • In Unseen Academicals, Braseneck College seems to be trying this on Unseen University; their Archchancellor is the former Dean, and their Ponder Stibbons equivalent used to be Ponder's best student. They even offered Ponder the post of Bursar, but he never even asked what the salary was.

Newspaper Comics
  • In Dilbert, the protagonist works at a company that always seem to be at the losing end of this. Except if you've been there for too long (like Dilbert and Co.) because this company is a black spot on resumes.

Tabletop Games
  • A common theme in Mage: The Ascension is how the various Traditions and Conventions try to recruit talented Mages from each other.
  • Knights of the Golden Rooster in Raven's Bluff often complain that other knightly orders tend to "take their best". Or, looking from the other end, being an "entry-level" order for common people and adventurers and a route to higher responsibilities is one of the Roosters' main roles.

Video Games
  • In the Interactive Fiction game The Lost Spellmaker, all of the spellmakers (people who, well... make spells, for the entertainment of the masses) from the PC's town and the other villages nearby are mysteriously disappearing. It turns out they're being stolen by the nearby city of Plantasitoy. Given that Plantasitoy is an anagram for PlayStation, one could easily read this as a metaphor.

Web Comics
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: King Radical and his Mafia prevent the brain drain from occuring in Cumberland, MD, by encouraging high school and college graduates to stay in the area. Very strongly encouraging.

Western Animation
  • In one episode of the animated version of Dilbert, the protagonist manages to get recruited by Nirvana Corporation, the great company that's always steals the best and brightest from his old company. of course, Status Quo Is God - so at the end of the episode he's back in his old cubicle again.
  • On The Simpsons the Globex Corporation tried to hire away Smithers but he wouldn't go for it so they tried the employee with the next highest seniority (and therefore obviously the next best guy) - Homer.
    • However, Homer was actually a hugely valuable employee at Globex, his wacky ideas were given a fair try and made the people he managed more productive.
      • Downsides: The Cool House Globex gave Homer did all of Marge's work for her, boring her to madness. The quality school Globex built stuck Bart in Special Ed. And even though Lisa enjoyed both the house and the school, the local wildlife sent her(never-seen-before-or-since) allergies into overdrive. Oh, and Globex' Benevolent Boss Hank Scorpio was actually a Evil Genius enemy of Mr. Bont - who Homer helps capture and execute, resulting in Scorpio taking over the West Coast.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Griffinstone is implied to be suffering from this problem by the time of ''"The Lost Treasure Of Griffinstone", if Gilda's peddling of griffinscones for the sole reason of wanting to earn enough bits to get out of there is any indication - compare that with the last seen status of Gustave Le Grande, who is shown to be a Supreme Chef and was far outside Griffinstone in his appearence, and the flashbacks in the stories told by Twilight and Grandpa Gruff of the glory that Griffinstone once was.

Real Life

  • During a given countries "golden age" it has often been common for adventurous immigrants to swarm over there to find opportunities. For instance, several conquerors have had scholars and artists crowding their courts simply because the prestige attracts. This naturally causes a Brain Drain in other countries.
    • By the same principle, countries going through particularly bad times experience an exodus of the talented to anywhere else, which naturally makes ending those bad times more difficult. Perhaps the most famous example of this phenomenon is the Berlin Wall, which was in large part erected to prevent skilled people from leaving East Germany (and instead had the unintended effect of keeping precisely those people in East Germany who were unskilled at stealth/tunneling/etc.).
      • All of the Communist countries of the Eastern Bloc experienced lots of brain drain before measures were taken by the Soviet Union and its puppet states to keep people from emigrating to the West.
      • After the Berlin Wall came down, East Germany saw a huge exodus of skilled Germans moving from the Eastern states to the rest of Germany. As a result, Eastern Germany is still considerably far behind the rest of the country twenty years later.
    • Germany was subject to this in spades before and after World War 2, thanks to the fact that a good number of technical, scientific, and financial experts were Jews. Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, and Wernher von Braun, just to name a few, all emigrated to the Western powers before or after the war. While those who fled before the war did so on their own initiative to escape the Nazis, researchers and other talented individuals who were taken out by the Allies after the war (with or without their consent) were removed because the Allies had no interest (at least initially) in rebuilding Germany's devastated industrial base.
  • On a much smaller scale, businesses who treat workers badly tend to have high turnover. Or a business might have financial problems, causing the talented workers to leave for greener pastures. Like the above example, it makes it difficult for the business to recover.