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Deep Smarts: How to Cultivate and Transfer Enduring Business Wisdom Hardcover – January 11, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dorothy Leonard is a highly respected professor at Harvard Business School and is considered a leading expert on technology transfer, knowledge management, and innovation.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (January 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591395283
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591395287
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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In addition, there are many case examples that tell the story in a compelling and highly readable manner.
Michael D. Kull, Ph.D.
Managers are better prepared to become better leaders and to create the means for developing future leaders once they understand and role of `deep smarts.'
Thomas M. Loarie
Leonard and Swap describe methods companies and individuals can use to cultivate and share the most useful kind of expertise.
Thomas D. Sullivan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Allegra Young on December 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Leonard and Swap have written another great book. I gave their first book, When Sparks Fly, to countless frustrated managers with whom I've worked and have already told several VCs and, oddly enough, national security mavens, about this book. For those familiar with Leonard and Swaps's work, you will not be surprised by the useful insights they provide that are not written about elsewhere.

Their basic premise is that not all employees contribute equally to the success of a business unit or company. Some employees have an uncanny ability to identify profitable market segments before the competition, correct failed design plans before problems occur, or assemble a team quickly to solve difficult problems. They can't run the entire business by themselves, but their knowledge helps to keep their businesses in tact.

Unfortunately, managers often value these experts by their absence. When those with critical expertise leave the company, the void may not filled in time to stave off partial or complete collapse of a business unit or entire corporation. Those with deep smarts can be vitally important to a collective endeavor, and when they're gone the trouble just doesn't stop.

Harvard Business School emerita professor Dorothy Leonard along with Walter Swap, the former dean of Tufts and a professor of psychology, explored the world of "knowledge stars" by interviewing people at 35 companies in the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and China from 2000-2002. Their interviews reflect the humanity of those involved in building businesses: the star talent, the aging egos, insecurities, cultural differences, social beliefs, and deeply useful skill sets embedded in those who are truly expert.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Restivo on May 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
By far the most useful and insightful book I've read in years. It changed the way I think about my organization and my career.

Leonard and Swap have shown that deep smarts, the experienced-based knowledge held by individuals in a firm are vital to an organization's survival as well as to an individual's success. I've heard much about the necessity of "cultivating talent" or "managing knowledge" without any real insight into what constitutes talent or what kind of knowledge is important. The result I've seen has been impractical (but often very expensive) efforts to codify any available organizational information without any sense of how valuable or accessible it is.

Leonard and Swap dig deeper into the real meaning of knowledge. Their research has identified what kind of knowledge creates competitive advantage, and more importantly, how leaders can cultivate and retain this knowledge. I don't know anyone in business who has not been confronted with the realization that vital experience has not been captured or passed on...when someone retires, leaves a position or leaves the company. And most of us have experienced a competitive threat based on superior expertise. But the solutions proposed usually aren't based on an understanding of how people actually learn (rather than how we wish they would) and don't often result in the development of judgment and wisdom. This book gave me a whole new way of thinking about expertise and how to leverage it. Deep Smarts also spoke to me on a personal level. I found their suggestions for how to build personal deep smarts an extremely useful approach to my own career development.

I also appreciate that this book is grounded in rigorous research.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daniel R. Wilson on August 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For as long as anyone can remember leaders have been struggling to describe and to manage a mysterious kind of knowledge that people cannot readily pass on to others. It has been called wisdom, tribal knowledge, and tacit knowledge. Authors Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap put this elusive kind of expertise in an organizational context and call it deep smarts.

One of the best ways to describe deep smarts is to provide an example of what it can do. They write, "When knowledge is fragmented, it takes deep smarts to aggregate it, make sense of it, see the relevant patterns, and act on it." So deep smarts is what it takes to define a path through confusion by sensing the connections in a blizzard of information. Wouldn't we all like to have that ability and have it flourish in our organizations?

Deep Smarts, the book, stands out among its peers in the rapidly growing field of knowledge management books on the strength of several virtues that are expressed in the subtitle. The authors show the reader how to cultivate and transfer enduring business wisdom, with `how to' being one of the key elements.

Cultivating deep smarts in an organization requires serious commitment from a manager. The manager must study it enough to understand its nature. It also requires a big investment in other people in order to give them the opportunity to develop deep smarts, which is to say, to move beyond ordinary levels of competence. Finally, the manager must maintain an environment that supports learning rather than stifling it. This means maintaining an environment of candor, fairness, and mutual respect. Anything less stifles learning and discourages the development of deep smarts.

Swap and Leonard provide an abundance of rather specific guidance on the `how' component.
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