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Why are Deep Smarts Important for Knowledge Transfer?


Deep Smarts is a concept to represent the deepest knowledge and understanding held by only certain people (experts) within an organisation (Leonard & Swap 2004). 

Such Deep Smarts allow a small number of key individuals to pull together a potentially wide variety of diverse knowledge to correctly solve new problems of which they have no direct previous experience. 

Deep Smarts are formed from a combination of:

  • Explicit and tacit knowledge
  • Skills
  • Experience 

Below is a summary of the key features portrayed by people with Deep Smarts that I’ve adapted from the original to help identify such experts within an organisation.

  •  Adaptive and quick to learn
  • Quick to identify trends and also quick to identify anomalies
  • Extensive repertoire of experience
  • Knows rules of thumb and also knows when rules of thumb don’t apply
  • Good with teams, groups and personalities
  • Can apply systems thinking
  • Demonstrates managerial/technical intuition
  • Can modify actions responsively and so can cope with unusual situations
  • Has perspective beyond generalisations
  • Remains emotionally intelligent
  • Understands consequences of actions
  • Understands the big picture, but can focus on the detail
  • Doesn’t understand their own thinking process and so can often surprise themselves with their own thoughts

When transferring personal knowledge, people with deep smarts are likely to be a great source.


Leonard, D. & Swap, W. (2004) ‘Deep smarts’ in Little, S. & Ray, T. (eds.) (2005) Managing Knowledge, London, Sage, pp. 157-169 (First published in Harvard Business Review, Sept Issue, pp. 88-97).




From → KT Theory

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