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What's the Big Idea? Creating and Capitalizing on the Best New Management Thinking Hardcover – April, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"In engaging language and with many current examples, Davenport and Prusak offer a convincing explanation of how a handful of organizations are able to consistently derive commercial benefit from the good ideas of their own people and others. I consider What’s the Big Idea? to be a must-read, whether you are seeking to market your own ideas or to convert the ideas of others to competitive advantage."
—Steve Kerr, Managing Director and Chief Learning Officer, Goldman Sachs

"In this original and important book, Davenport and Prusak answer their own question: the big idea is how ideas and their creators have shaped the foundations of management practices over the past four or five decades. What’s the Big Idea? thoroughly covers the history and sociology of ideas that have made a huge difference in how business is practiced."
—Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, USC, and coauthor, Geeks & Geezers: How Era, Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders

"What's the Big Idea? is a brilliant guide to finding and implementing sound business ideas. Davenport and Prusak have uncovered fundamental truths about business knowledge that simply cannot be found elsewhere. This is a timeless and relentlessly useful book. If you want your company to keep getting better every day, buy this charming and well-written book, study it, and keep talking about it with your colleagues."
—Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford, author, Weird Ideas That Work, and coauthor, The Knowing-Doing Gap.

"Davenport and Prusak’s innovative analysis focuses not only on the critical ideas that change the course of business performance, but, more important, on the people and processes that transform ideas into results. In their fascinating description of ‘idea practitioners,’ they will help readers to attain that lofty status."
—Gary W. Loveman, President & CEO, Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.

About the Author

Thomas H. Davenport is the President’s Distinguished Chair at Babson College and a research fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business. Laurence Prusak is the Director of IBM's Institute for Knowledge Management. Jim Wilson is an associate of the Institute for Strategic Change.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578519314
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578519316
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,598,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Within a few hours of reading this latest book co-authored by Davenport and Prusak with H. James Wilson, I went into a meeting with the senior managers of one of my consulting clients. The only item on the agenda was the perceived need for generating more suggestions from among the company's 575 employees. More specifically, suggestions as to how to produce more and better work in less time and thereby lower operating costs while increasing productivity and improving efficiency. (Sound familiar?) Still absorbing Davenport and Prusak's information and (especially) insights, I posed for the group a series of questions:
1. Is this company idea-driven?
2. Are workers encouraged to suggest new/better ideas?
3. Are they convinced each suggestion will be carefully considered?
4. Are the best ideas then recognized and rewarded?
5. Are those suggestions then acted upon in a timely manner?
Long pause. Silence. The senior managers resembled what Darrell Royal once described as "a young goat staring at a new gate." Clearing of throats. Finally, the CEO asked "Well, what about it?" Finally, those in the group admitted that the answer to all of the was the same: sometimes. Translation: Seldom.
In Working Knowledge (1997), Davenport and Prusak explain how organizations manage what they know. In The Good Company (2001), Cohen and Prusak explain how social capital makes organizations work. In this volume, Davenport and Prusak explain how to create and capitalize on the best management thinking. However, any business idea (no matter how BIG it may seem to some) is essentially worthless unless and until it contributes to business success. In this volume, they focus on "idea practitioners" and "gurus.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shashank Tripathi on June 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Chances are you feel you've read books like this before. WHAT makes an idea work? WHO in an organization makes it work? WHY are idea practitioners not always rewarded or recognized? IS your organization stifling the flow of ideas or motivating ANYONE to come up with them?
Yet, veering around interviews with 100 or so actual idea practitioners, this offering from Davenport et al has a very specific thematic intent and does a fabulous job of it. Below are some thoughts that form the spine of this brilliant work --
(1) It is usually the same people who advance new business approaches at organizations. It's a whole class of people who have never been exalted to the status of high-profile business gurus (Porter, Tom Peters, Drucker, Hammer etc) despite being the ones to _actualize_ the ambitious ponderings of the Porters and Druckers of our world.
(2) And no, rarities like Jack Welch may be more of an exception than the rule. Most idea practitioners are not on a fast track to the corner office. Most of them believe that they could probably have done better within the company if they had instead focused their careers on power and responsibility.
(3) Yet, many of these people can't help themselves. They tend to gravitate to the jobs that have more intellectual content.
(4) It is the contribution of these folk that gives companies competitive edges in times of an economic slump or industry stagnation/maturation, or even an elevated "perceived" business performance resulting in improved shareholder value and morale.
(5) None of the above is conveyed in the form of fluffy business wisdom tripe.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Naomi Moneypenny on July 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A most interesting and delightfully opinionated book is the latest offering from Tom Davenport and Larry Prusack. Easily digested, this book attempts to `out-meta' the competition in the game of management idea mindshare, by giving a framework by which other ideas are evaluated for their applicability to your organization. `He who owns the process wins' is an oft-quoted cliché at ManyWorlds.com and this book makes a good claim for the process. But more seriously, it does introduce some important (dare I say new) thinking into the faddish and/or fatigued of management ideas.
The most critical of those is that of the `idea practitioner' - the role of the unsung heroes in organizations that translate the guru's missives from on high to that of the real-world working business. They are defined as `individuals who use business improvement ideas to bring about change in organizations'. And to help you seek out these people in your company, Davenport and Prusack helpfully profile a number of real idea practitioners across a range of companies such as BP, Clarica, World Bank, BIC and many others. But chances are that if you are attracted to this book, you are probably an idea practitioner yourself, even in latent form.

The idea practitioner is an idea filterer who possesses the key skills of `translation, harmonization and timing' and applies them to new ideas around the organization. It's the skill of knowing when to introduce an idea, to maximize its impact and benefit to the organization.
What's the Big Idea? examines the lifecycles of ideas, internal and external adoption rates as well as describing the categories of gurus.
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