By Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap (Harvard Business School Press, $29.95)
Aside from the Red Sox, this book may be the best thing to come out of Boston in recent times. For leaders of companies in general and of the San Francisco '49ers in particular, authors Leonard and Swap provide practical methods to create and preserve institutional knowledge and memory in times of dynamic discontinuity so that the inherent advantages remain inside the company when the best and brightest of your people do not.
The point is that your company won't have to fall to the bottom of the NFC West if you are able to take steps to harness the experience and know-how that made it competitive in the first place. After all, you do not have to deal with a salary cap. All you have to do is pay attention to your people in ways that will encourage them to stay on the team and share the ball.
So what do they mean by deep smarts, exactly? It isn't all locked up in the IT department, by any means. Some of it is process and some is "the way [companies, teams and individuals] approach a project, communicate with a colleague to strengthen a weak tie, or observe on a business trip." The identities and skills we develop often happen "outside of the set of formal choices—in how we think about daily routines, in how actively we learn, in how we tap into the expertise of those higher on the ladder."
You may conclude that the trick has to do with the elusive concept of corporate culture, but to the authors it is different and subtler. They suggest we examine how we build repertoires of experience, and thereby become more cognizant "of assumptions and beliefs posed as unquestioned truth, of the power of apprenticeships." The more conscious the approach we use to design our own experience "and that of those individuals we can help move up the ladder of expertise, the deeper the resulting smarts." —S.C.