Deep Smarts: Experience-based Wisdom

An Executive Forum Presentation by Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap, Synopsis by Rod Cox
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“”Throughout your organization are people whose intuition, judgment, and knowledge, both explicit and tacit, are stored in their heads and – depending on the task – in their hands. Their knowledge is essential. They are, relative to others, expert. These are the people with Deep Smarts, and it is not an exaggeration to say that they form the basis of your organizational viability.”

The business world of the 1990s was indelibly linked to the spectacular rise and fall of entrepreneurial companies. Leaders of these companies were typically young, highly intelligent, very energetic, technically skilled, and refreshingly unfettered by conventional business bureaucracies. Yet few of their innovative companies survived. In spite of their obvious talents, these leaders lost their shirts when, among other business shifts, their abundant supply of venture capital dried up. Gifted sprinters in an up market, they found themselves unprepared for the demands of a twenty-kilometer down-market race. In case after case, these leaders lacked the tacit knowledge to make it work. Missing were Deep Smarts, among them:

  • the necessary experience to comprehend complex systems.
  • a tacit understanding of the inferences and implications of their marketplace.
  • an awareness of how seemingly unrelated internal and external forces (shifts in world finances, for instance) can affect a company.”