Deep Smarts and the Passion Factor

Sunday, 13 November 2005, 7:41 | Category : Uncategorized
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I was lucky to catch Dorothy Leonard’s talk on what she learned writing the book, Deep Smarts:How to Cultivate and Transfer Enduring Business Wisdom. at the Boston KM Forum. (Thanks to Bill Ives for finding this link to a good summary; Bill, by the way, is speaking at the next KM Forum meeting on November 17th)

Essentially, Dr. Leonard (now professor emerita of Harvard Business School) and her co-author Walter Swap researched how companies identify and leverage those employees who have both depth and breadth of understanding and knowledge as well as the skills and experience needed to tackle the hard problems. It’s a great book; I had read it last year but was happy to see her distillation and to hear her talk about it.

A week later I saw her again at the Network Roundtable bi-annual conference at the University of Virginia. I excused myself from listening to the talk a second time and gave myself a long walk around the beautiful and historically rich campus at UVA.

I returned from my walk just in time to hear her closing comments and the Q&A.; She shared that one of the characteristics that people with “deep smarts” have in common is that they have a passion for what they do. “Of course,” I thought to myself, “talent and passion are linked, just as Johnson O’Connor has been saying since 1922. People are happiest when they are using their talents, and unhappy in work that forces them to do things that they are not good at.

One of the very interesting aspects of the JOC work is that they have kept a record of all the people who have taken the suite of aptitude tests over the years and correlated the career and career happiness with specific profiles. This gives them a good sense of what careers would be best for people with a specific set of talents. We went to JOC because we knew two people who had made significant career changes as a result of JOC recommendations, and were happy as pie in their new work. My husband, step-son, and I all invested in the aptitude testing process at JOC many years ago, and I count the insights into how I had been and was (and was not) using my own talents helped me to shift my perspective about work and from there make a powerful transition. When passion and innate talents combine in a person who is in a work environment that values people and knowledge, that is a recipe for deep smarts.

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