Book Summary: Multipliers

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Accessing their services just for the book summaries is well worth the cost. Below is a sample from the April edition of Leader’s Edge Book Summary of Multipliers. Each book summary includes the content of the book by category of:

  • Best chapter
  • Best quotes
  • Best illustration
  • Best idea
  • Best take away
  • Recommendation

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

Authors: Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown

Publisher: HarperBusiness, June 2010, Hardcover 288 pages, also available in Kindle format
ISBN: 9780061964398


Wiseman draws on research of more than 150 executives and her experience as an executive with Oracle to show why some leaders make the people around them better and others, in spite of their own high capacity, diminish the talent pool around them. Mulpliers take a distinct approach to leadership by 1) attracting and optimizing talent, 2) requiring people’s best thinking, 3) extending challenges, 4) debating decisions, and 5) instilling accountability.

Best chapter

Chapter 1 – The Multiplier Effect

From her viewpoint as vice president of global talent development and point leader for the corporate university at the $22 billion software giant, Oracle, Liz Wiseman observed a lot of smart people. She recognized some of them worked hard to make sure everyone knew they were the smartest person in the room and others worked hard to make the people around them smarter. Some leaders amplify intelligence, which she calls Multipliers, while others act as Diminishers, depleting the organization of crucial intelligence and capability.

Based on the research outlined in this opening chapter, some leaders have a Multiplier Effect, getting two times as much out of the people around them. What difference would it make if you could get everything your team members have to offer PLUS a ten percent growth bonus because they were actually getting smarter and more capable while working for you?

Best quotes

“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.” (p. 10)

“The Diminisher’s view of intelligence is based on elitism and scarcity. Diminishers appear to believe that really intelligent people are a rare breed and I am one of the few really smart people. They then conclude, other people will never figure things out without me.” (p. 18)

” Multipliers look at the complex opportunities and challenges swirling around them and assume: there are smart people everywhere who will figure this out and get even smarter in the process. Therefore, they conclude that their job is to bring the right people together in an environment that liberates people’s best thinking and then to get out of their way.” (p. 20)

“In their quest to assemble the finest talent, Talent Magnets are blind to organizational boundaries. They see the multiple forms of intelligence that exist everywhere. Talent Magnets live in a world without walls and without hierarchical or lateral restrictions. Instead, they see talent networks.” (p. 45)

“As you watch someone in action, ask these questions: What do they do better than anything else they do? What do they do better than the people around them? What do they do without effort? What do they do without being asked? What do they do readily without being paid?” (p. 48)

“…when you become the leader, the center of gravity is no longer yourself.” (p. 65)

“In any hierarchical organization, the playing field is rarely level. The senior leaders stand on the high side of the field and ideas and policies roll easily down to the lower side. Policies – established to create order – often unintentionally keep people from thinking. At best, these policies limit intellectual range of motion as they straitjacket the thinking of the followers. At worst, these systems shut down thinking entirely.” (p. 66)

“Among the Multipliers we studied in our research, we found three common practices. Liberators: 1) create space; 2) demand people’s best work; and 3) generate rapid learning cycles.” (p. 77)

“Multipliers ask the questions that challenge the fundamental assumptions in an organization and disrupt the prevailing logic.” (p. 109)

“When people are given ownership for only a piece of something larger, they tend to optimize that portion, limiting their thinking to this immediate domain. When people are given ownership for the whole, they stretch their thinking and challenge themselves to go beyond their scope.” (p. 170)

Best illustration

Carol Dweck of Stanford University has conducted ground-breaking research that found that children given a series of progressively harder puzzles and praised for their intelligence stagnate for fear of reaching the limit of their intelligence. Children given the same series of puzzles but then praised for their hard work actually increased their ability to reason and to solve problems. When these children were recognized for their efforts to think, they created a belief, and then a reality, that intelligence grows. Eric Turkheimer of the University of Virginia has found that bad environments suppress children’s IQs. When poor children were adopted into upper-middle-class households, their IQs rose by 12 to 18 points. Richard Nisbett of the University of Michigan has reviewed studies that show: 1) students’ IQ levels drop over summer vacation, and 2) IQ levels across society have steadily increased over time. The average IQ of people in 1917 would amount to a mere 73 on today’s IQ test. (p. 12)

File under IQ, positive reinforcement, people development

Best idea

To create space for others in meetings consider a game of poker chips. Mentally assign yourself poker chips worth 120 seconds, 90 seconds, and 30 seconds. Then limit your verbal contribution to a handful of comments that require you to “play one of your chips.” Spend them whenever you think it is really worth it but when you are out of chips you are out of the conversation.

Best take away

Ask yourself: “What would cause other people to become smarter and more capable around me? What could people figure out on their own if I just gave them more space? How can I get the full brainpower of my team or organization? Or simply …How can I multiply the intelligence of others?” (p. 216)


Make a list of the people who work most closely with you, including direct reports as well as peers on your team. What evidence do you have that this group is getting smarter, growing in their capacity, and what role have you played in that journey? Reflect on your interaction with each person and identify one context in which you could give focused energy to become a multiplier. What would that look like? Now do it.

Visit Missio Nexus to learn more about their Leader’s Edge Book Summaries and their other resources.


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