Monday, August 30, 2004

(Managing) Deep Smarts

Deep Smarts are those people who can see the whole picture and yet zoom in on a specific problem others haven’t been able to diagnose. Almost intuitively, they can make the right decision, at the right level, with the right people. Their insight is based more on know-how than on facts; it comprises a system view as well as expertise in individual areas. Deep smarts are not philosophical—they’re not “wisdom” in that sense—but they’re as close to wisdom as business gets.

Drawing on their forthcoming book Deep Smarts, Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap argue in the September 2004 Issue of the Harvard Business Review that the best way to transfer such expertise to novices and make individual knowledge institutional isn’t through PowerPoint slides, a Web site of best practices, online training, project reports, or lectures.

Rather, the sage needs to teach the neophyte individually how to draw wisdom from experience. The novice needs to discover the expert’s know-how through guided practice, guided observation, guided problem solving, and guided experimentation — all under the direction of a knowledge coach.

Companies have to be willing to dedicate time and effort to such extensive training, but the investment more than pays for itself.