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Liz Wiseman

“It isn’t how much you know that matters. What matters is how much access you have to what other people know. It isn’t just how intelligent your team members are; it is how much of that intelligence you can draw out and put to use.” Liz Wiseman

Liz Wiseman is an American researcher, executive advisor, and author. For years, she has been one of top 50 on the Thinkers50 list, a global ranking of management thinkers.

According to this leadership expert: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Liz Wiseman (born October 1964) is an American researcher, executive advisor, and author. She is the President of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. She is the author of three best-selling books: Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work (2014), Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (2010) and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our School (2013). She writes for Harvard Business Review and Fortune and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc. and Time magazines. Wiseman holds a bachelor's degree in business management and a Masters of Organizational Behavior from Brigham Young University. She is a frequent guest lecturer at BYU, the Naval Postgraduate Academy, and Stanford University. A former executive at Oracle Corporation, Wiseman worked over the course of 17 years as the Vice President of Oracle University and as the global leader for Human Resource Development. It was during her years as an Oracle executive and later as an executive coach that she observed the differences between multiplying and diminishing leaders and then conducted the foundational research for her book Multipliers.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

"How is it, given the same environment, the same circumstances, and the same skills that an employee's performance can vary widely based solely on who their supervisor is?" The authors, Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown, speculate that the primary difference is based on whether a given leader's behavior falls into one of two categories, called the "Multiplier" and the "Diminisher". For Wiseman, leaders can be broadly classified as either Multipliers or Diminishers.

A Multiplier creates an environment where each team member is challenged, stretched, passionately engaged, and emerges not only more intelligent for having worked with a Multiplier, but exhilarated at having achieved great things. A Diminisher, as one can imagine, stunts the intellectual growth of those who work for him or her, drains teams of curiosity, and vitality itself. Indeed, for Wiseman and McKeown, to work for a Diminisher is to essentially watch yourself wither away through micromanagement, dis-engagement, and eventually emerge with a reduced sense of self-worth.

In analyzing data from more than 150 leaders, Wiseman and McKeown have identified five disciplines that distinguish Multipliers from Diminishers. These five disciplines are not based on innate talent; indeed, they are skills and practices that everyone can learn to use, even lifelong and recalcitrant Diminishers. Lively, real-world case studies and practical tips and techniques bring to life each of these principles, showing you how to become a Multiplier too, whether you are a new or an experienced manager. Just imagine what you could accomplish if you could harness all the energy and intelligence around you.

They further break these categories down into five major classifications. According to the authors, leaders are rarely all or one of these categories, but instead fall somewhere along the spectrum between these two extremes. In their words: "We see the Diminisher-Multiplier model as a continuum with a few people at the extremes and most of us somewhere in between. As people have been introduced to this material, they almost always see some of the Diminisher and some of the Multiplier within themselves. One leader we worked with is illustrative. He was a smart and aware individual who didn't fit the archetype of a Diminisher, and yet when he read the material he could see how he sometimes behaved in a Diminishing manner. While we studied this leadership phenomenon by contrast, we see the model as a continuum with only very few people at the polar extremes, and the majority of us somewhere in the middle." Throughout the book the authors provide a number of anecdotes that demonstrate the effect Multiplier and Diminisher behaviors have in real-life situations. They show that by moving from negative behaviors to positive behaviors, a leader can double his team's output without adding more staff. Multipliers are leaders who are able to amplify the capability of people around them. They are able to optimize output by playing to people's unique intelligence and capability. The goal of a multiplier is not to get more done by multiplying his own efforts, but instead to multiply the output of those around him. They are talent magnets: they attract and optimize talent. They are liberators: they create intensity that requires the best thinking of the team. They are challengers: they define opportunities that cause people to stretch themselves. They are debate makers: they drive sound decisions through rigorous debate. They are investors: they instill ownership and accountability. Diminishers, despite having smart people on their team, are unable to reach their goals. They are absorbed in their own capabilities. They tend to stifle productivity and deplete the organization of intelligence and capability. Many times, this organizational depletion is done unintentionally by the diminisher. They are unaware of the affect they are having on those around them. They are empire builders: they hoard resources and underutilize talent. They are tyrants: they create tense environments that suppress thinking, creativity, and capability. They are know-it-all's: they give directives that showcase how much they know. They are "the decision maker": they make centralized, abrupt decisions that confuse the organization. They are micro managers: they drive results through their personal involvement.

“THE FOUR PRACTICES OF THE TALENT MAGNET. Among the Multipliers we studied in our research, we found four active practices that together catalyze and sustain this cycle of attraction. These Talent Magnets: 1) look for talent everywhere; 2) find people’s native genius; 3) utilize people to their fullest; and 4) remove the blockers.”

“Victor Hugo once said, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

“Yes, certain leaders amplify intelligence. These leaders, whom we have come to call Multipliers, create collective, viral intelligence in organizations. Other leaders act as Diminishers and deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capability. But what is it that these Multipliers do? What is it that Multipliers do differently than Diminishers?”

“Multipliers aren’t “feel-good” managers. They look into people and find capability, and they want to access all of it. They utilize people to their fullest. They see a lot, so they expect a lot.”

“The highest quality of thinking cannot emerge without learning. Learning can’t happen without mistakes.”

In a rapidly changing world, experience can be a curse. Careers stall, innovation stops, and strategies grow stale. Being new, naïve, and even clueless can be an asset. For today’s knowledge workers, constant learning is more valuable than mastery.

In this book, Liz Wiseman explains how to reclaim and cultivate this curious, flexible, youthful mindset called Rookie Smarts. She argues that the most successful rookies are hunter-gatherers—alert and seeking, cautious but quick like firewalkers, and hungry and relentless like pioneers. Most importantly, she identifies a breed of leaders she refers to as “perpetual rookies.” Despite years of experience, they retain their rookie smarts, thinking and operating with the mindsets and practices of these high-performing rookies. Rookie Smarts addresses the questions every experienced professional faces: “Will my knowledge and skills become obsolete and irrelevant? Will a young, inexperienced newcomer upend my company or me? How can I keep up?” The answer is to stay fresh, keep learning, and know when to think like a rookie.

In her introductory section, Wiseman makes a very strong case for why this rookie mindset is so important. "As work shifts from the physical to the knowledge realm, what are the implications for mastery? While physical virtuosity requires practice, might brilliance in the world of ideas demand mental agility? When there is too much to know, having the right question may be more important than having a ready answer." "A study in 2005 estimated that knowledge becomes obsolete at a rate of 15% per year. Another recent study reports that the annual rate of decay in high-tech is 30%."

Wiseman argues convincingly that in the modern world, the greatest strength will be the ability to be intellectually agile. She defines “rookie smarts” to be the intelligence inherent in “being ignorant”, in other words a lack of knowledge and experience forces a person to learn quickly. Such a situation also means that the person does not have rigid preconceived ideas on how things are to be done, so they are capable of thinking in new ways.

The strongest argument for rookie smarts is the reality that knowledge of a field decays even more rapidly in the modern world. If you are not involved in continuous updates of your knowledge base, most expert knowledge becomes obsolete within four years. Therefore, if a rookie arrives and studies the latest material for a few months, this in combination with the rotting of an experienced person’s skills that are not being refreshed, means that there is not that much difference in their skill levels.

Wiseman puts forward several examples of people that continuously re-invented themselves in the sense that they walked into situations where they did not know what they were doing, and they knew it. In many cases, they were the first to admit it. Rather than cowering in terror in the corner of their office, the people sought the help of anyone who seemed capable of providing valuable information on how to do things. This led to a steep learning curve in that it did not take long for them to arrive at creative and effective solutions.

Wiseman also included some excellent advice to managers and companies regarding how to bring out these qualities in their people. She suggests: "instead of hiring for experience, hire for learning ability".

In the modern world of rapid and relentless advancement and creative destruction, the greatest asset any company can have is a workforce of people who are intellectually agile and capable of rapidly switching intellectual paradigms. This makes the information in this book critical; it describes the most significant development strategy that works in the modern world.

“When the world is changing quickly, experience can become a curse, trapping us in old ways of doing and knowing, while inexperience can be a blessing, freeing us to improvise and adapt quickly to changing circumstances.”

“As Epictetus said centuries ago, “It is impossible to begin to learn what one thinks one already knows.”

“Experience is not the enemy: It is the hubris that is often a by-product of experience that is our greatest enemy.”

“What man actually needs is not some tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.”

“The best leaders understand that the joy of work is in the striving, not in arriving at the top of a ladder.”