The Multiplier Effect: A book review by Bob Morris

Multiplier EffectThe Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools
Liz Wiseman, Lois Allen, and Elise Porter
Corwin/A Sage Company (2013)

How and why a Multiplier environment — with efficient systems — can unlock human potential

In Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, written with Greg McKeown, Liz Wiseman juxtaposes two quite different types of workers whom she characterizes as the “Multiplier” and the “Diminisher.” Although she refers to them as leaders, suggesting they have supervisory responsibilities, they could also be direct reports at the management level or workers at the “shop floor” level. Multipliers “extract full capability,” their own as well as others’, and demonstrate five disciplines: Talent Magnet, Liberator, Challenger, Debate Maker, and Investor. Diminishers underutilize talent and resources, their own as well as others, and also demonstrate five disciplines: Empire Builder, Tyrant, Know-It-All, Decision Maker, and Micro Manager. Wiseman devotes a separate chapter to each of the five Multiplier leadership roles.

Are people either Diminishers or Multipliers or are there people in the middle? Here is Wiseman and McKeown’s response: “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.”

What we have in this volume, co-authored with Lois Allen and Elise Porter, is a combination of information, insights, and counsel that cam help to build Multiplier leadership across an education system wherever these conditions exist: increasing demands that create challenges to insufficient or even diminishing resources, and, innovative thinking by leadership that is effective at all levels and in all areas of the given education system.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of the book’s coverage.

o The Multiplier Effect (Pages 3-6)
o The Five Disciplines of the Multiplier (6-8)
o The Mind of the Multiplier (9-12)
o The Multiplier Effect: The Model (19)
o The Gatekeeper versus the Talent Finder (22-27)
o The Three Practices of the Talent Finder (28-35)
o The Diminishers’ Approach to Managing Talent (35-37)
o At a Glance: The Talent Finder (44)
o The Tyrant versus the Liberator (47-52)
o The Three Practices of the Liberator (53-57)
o The Three Practices of the Challenger (75-80)
o Becoming a Challenger (82-84)
o At a Glance: The Challenger (90)
o The Three Practices of the Community Builder (98-104)
o Becoming a Multiplier Community (163-168)

All organizations need effective leadership and I cannot think of any that are in greater need than are those within a public school system: board and senior-management at the district level and administrative staff and department heads at the school level as well as, especially, the educators in the classroom, athletic coaches and trainers, and parent associations (PTA, women’s club, and men’s club). Every adult with direct and frequent contact with children must develop a Multiplier mindset and master the five Multiplier disciplines, as must others who have indirect contact but significant impact on the personal growth and educational development of those entrusted to the system’s care. There are almost unlimited opportunities to “make children smarter.”

I commend Liz Wiseman, Lois Allen and Elise Porter on The Multiplier Effect and its potential value to efforts to “tap the genius inside our schools.” That said, I have little (if any) confidence that significant and sustainable improvement, at least in U.S. public schools, is likely. Most of those who could make that happen are Diminishers, silos disguised as people, who are committed to what James O’Toole so aptly characterized as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

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