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Deep Smarts. Presentation by Stephen Porter Authors of the article: Dorothy Leonard, Walter Swap. Deep Smarts. Mysterious quality, good judgment System view as well as expertise in individual areas Their knowledge is essential Organization cannot progress without it. Dorothy Leonard.

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Deep Smarts

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Deep smarts

Deep Smarts

Presentation by Stephen Porter

Authors of the article: Dorothy Leonard, Walter Swap

Deep smarts1

Deep Smarts

  • Mysterious quality, good judgment

  • System view as well as expertise in individual areas

  • Their knowledge is essential

  • Organization cannot progress without it

Dorothy leonard

Dorothy Leonard

  • Ph.D. Stanford University

  • Business Administration professor at Harvard

  • organizational innovation, technology strategy, and the commercialization of new ideas

  • 35 articles and books

Walter swap

Walter Swap

  • Grew up in Alaska

  • Bachelors at Harvard

  • Ph.D. University of Michigan

  • Lectured at Tufts University

  • Founding member of the university’s Innovative Center for Decision Making

  • Married Dorothy Leonard

  • Work together publishing

People with deep smarts

People with Deep Smarts

  • Stand out among other people

  • Know the business, the customers, product line both overall and in depth

  • Experience based: Can’t be produced overnight

  • Ex. Marketing director promoted previous director left and knowledge lost



  • Deep Smarts can be taught but it takes

Brad anderson

Brad Anderson

  • Believes in innovation

  • Hired Strategos to coach employees about the importance of innovation

  • Rare investment for a company

Most organizations

Most Organizations

  • More developed by chance than intent

  • Trial-and-error learning instead of carefully planned transitions Increases turnover rate of employees

  • Most training programs transfer technical or managerial knowledge-not deep smarts



  • 35 companies in two years

  • Interviewed 200 people

  • The following illustrates how organizations can develop and sustain profound knowledge among employees

Weapon tech 1980s

Weapon Tech 1980s

  • Two companies competing for contract for tactical missiles

  • Neither had a competitive advantage

  • Scientist stepped forward, called meeting

  • Thrilled buyers of details of design change

  • Company won contract

Deep smarts

  • CEO (Bill Campbell) talks board of directors out of allowing the company to miss earnings commitment

  • Revenues were down

  • If stock dropped, employee options would be worthless

  • He new where to cut costs and did just that

  • Cut expenses and hit financial targets

Did campbell have deep smarts

Did Campbell have Deep Smarts?

  • Knew details of company operation

  • Found areas for potential cost cutting

  • Understood the big picture and financial environment

  • Could foresee Wall Street, employees reaction

  • Persuasive arguments for board members

  • Emotionally intelligent and understood the system as a whole

The science behind experience

The Science Behind (Experience)

  • Rather fly with a pilot who has flown in all kinds of weather

  • Surgeon saying “Wow-never seen one of those before”

  • Encountering situations accumulates a storehouse of knowledge

  • Have the ability to react quickly without a lot of effort

  • Becomes a gut feeling

  • Ex. Accountant who finds number mistakes can’t explain how she got the answer but know its wrong from experience

Are experts always right

Are experts always right?

  • Confidence leads to myopia or arrogance

  • Reject contributions from others

  • Mistakes can be made

  • Ex. Doctor prescribing acid suppressant for indigestion when in reality it’s more serious

  • Overconfidence

  • Difficulty transferring knowledge

  • May assume expertise where none exists

Passing on the knowledge

Passing on the Knowledge

  • We use what we have to absorb new experiences

  • “For someone to capture complex, experience-based knowledge, his brain has to contain some frameworks, domain knowledge, or prior experiences to which current inputs can connect.”

Sink or swim

Sink or Swim

  • Depends on the person

  • Usually inefficient and ineffective

  • Better to create receptors with framework to which experience can be tied

Guided experience p 91

Guided Experience p.91

  • Learning by doing with feedback

  • The novice has to discover the expert’s know-how through practice, observation, problem solving, and experimentation

Guided practice

Guided Practice

  • Practice makes better

  • It’s better to assess outcomes after practice and see what needs to change.

  • An experienced coach (boss) can help guide in the right direction

Guided observation

Guided Observation

  • Have a catcher to observe then discuss afterword

  • Ex. Junior consultant sat in on client meetings

  • “Listen and learn” Learn more from debriefs than two years of business school

  • Challenge beliefs, be exposed to foreign ways of thinking

Deep smarts

  • Consultant group sent Best Buy team members to American Girl Place in Chicago

  • Initially unsettling, out of comfort zone

  • Socializing atmosphere for grandmothers, mothers, and daughters

  • Also went to Mexico City, Amish countryside, Seoul

What did they learn

What did they learn?

  • Different behavior/social patterns

  • Generate ideas for products and services that would offer an experience or social happening

  • Jennifer Rock a mid-level manager learned about employees- “Our success boils down to the interaction between one customer and one employee, Is that employee happy and productive and informed and excited? We need to know that employee's state of mind better than anyone else in the company."

Guided problem solving

Guided Problem Solving

  • Coach transfers know-how more than know-what

  • Physicians convert book smarts into experienced-based smarts by working with veteran doctors during residencies

  • Apprenticeships

  • Focusing attention, sharpening process skills, giving feedback, providing opportunity to mimic an expert

Guided experimentation

Guided Experimentation

  • Children experiment and learn quickly

  • ActivePhoto (software) initially chose three customer bases and by experimenting (pilot studies), found two that worked

  • Whirlpool learned that customers like customization; ended up actually spending more

Deep smarts

  • Admired for efficient manufacturing; attracted imitators

  • True advantage of Toyota: Mind-set of employees, hypothesize about possible improvements, experiment

Does it cost to much

Does it cost to much?

  • One executive says “the days of apprenticeship are over. We’re convinced that guided experience is the only way to cultivate deep smarts”

  • Guided experience increases value of employees and the business as a whole; how can companies afford not to invest in it?

My thoughts

My Thoughts

  • It takes the right person to have Deep Smarts

  • The way a company passes on knowledge depends on the situation and industry

  • Some people may be taught through knowledge experience but may never develop the skill



  • Biography-Dorothy A. Leonard. HarvardBusiness School Faculty and Research.

  • DeBold, Joseph. (2004). Resolution on the Retirement of Walter C. Swap. Tufts University Arts, Sciences, and Engineering.

  • Leonard, Dorothy, & Strauss, Susaan. (1997). Putting Your Company’s Whole Brain to Work. Harvard Business Review, July-August, 3.

  • Tucker, Robert. (2010). Listening to Employees is a Best Buy. Blogging Innovation.

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