Chapter 1 - The Multiplier Effect


Chapter Summary Multipliers think others are smart and autonomous. They: attract, maximise talent; create intense and comfortable environments for thinking and creativity; define opportunities that grow; drive decisions with debate; give ownership, invest in their success.

You can be a multiplier. This book will show you how. But this isn't a book of self-indulgent feel good leadership. It's hard-edged.

Central themes of the book revolve around two types of people: multipliers and diminishers. The latter under-use people. The former increase intelligence of people and organisations. They leverage resources and can leverage further by turning other people into multipliers. Note that in reality there is a spectrum of types.

It'll be easy to learn the labels of good and bad leadership and throw them on people. Instead, consciously develop the practises of a multiplier.

Liz walks us through a story of a young over-performer officer in the US called Derek. During his early career his natural high achievement ability served him very well. He did even better under a great manager. He experiences a change in command and his performances crumble across the board - the new manager does get Derek to perform at all!

Managers regard the concept of genius differently. One type wants to be the genius - having the answers to everything, persuading everyone, micro-managing the details. These types dilute the company's total intelligence. Another type creates them - engages individuals' smarts, low personal ego.

It's not about how much you know. It's about how much access you have to what other people know.

Mulitpiers = genius makers.

They make everyone smarter and more capable, and get vastly more out of the people, up to 2x. On an individual level, they may even get more than 100% out of a person. I.e., they grow and go beyond what they thought they were able of.

People also have a different perspective of multipliers.

Liz refers you to other recent breaking psychological research:

  • Dweck's growth minset
  • Turkheimer's research on bad environments reducing IQ
  • Nisbett's studies on student IQ dropping over summer, IQ levels of society steadily rising over time.

Can't lose a good old management academia line: "resource leverage creates competitive advantage".

Example from Tim Cook. He demands a sales division to grow, but without budget growth. Meaning making your resources go further.


Personal Thought When running organisations you ought to alternate between multiplication and addition methods of growing. After a period of growth via addition, demand growth through productivity.

The logic of addition

  • People are overworked
  • Our best are the most maxed out
  • A larger task needs more resources

The logic of multiplication

  • People are underutilised
  • Full capability can be leveraged with the right leadership
  • Intelligence and capability can grow without more resource

But it's not just about getting more with less. You can get more with more.

The mind of the diminisher

Intelligence is regarded with elitism and scarcity.

"How will people do things without me?"

Intelligence is black and white - you either have it or you don't.

No vacation for the smart people - if you need to get things done right, do it yourself!

The mind of the multiplier

Intelligence evolves and grows.

Primary assumption is that smart people will figure it out, and they'll grow along the way.

"In what way is this person smart?" (notice the default is looking for the smart in people ☺️)

"What can I do to support and grow this capability?"

Liberate the thinking and then get out of the way.

Multiplier vs Diminisher

How would you...DiminisherMultiplier
...manage talent?
...approach mistakes
...set direction
...make decisions
...get things done?

The five disciplines of the multiplier

1. attract & optimise talent

Multipliers are talent magnets, liberators 🧲 - attract and deploy genius

Diminishers are empire builders, tyrants πŸ‘Ί - own and control resources

You may be attracted to a diminisher, but that'll be where you die

2. create intensity that requires best thinking

Multipliers (henceforth Ms), create a highly motivated work environment that is also comfortable

Remove fear, and demand best effort

Diminishers (henceforth Ds), introduce judgement, and a fear of judgement

3. extend challenges

Ms continually push themselves and others by seeding opportunities that stretch people. They're process driven.

Ds are know it alls and show offs, who boss people around

4. debate decisions

Ms believe sound decisions come from people engaging in debate, then those people understand and can execute effectively.

The decision making process they champion is a path to decision enlightenment.

D's make efficient decisions within an inner circle, and then are sold externally

5. instill ownership and accountability

M's have high expectactions from others and hold them fully accountable. This becomes an unrelenting prescence, which indirectly drives others.

They invest that allocate time and resources.

D's micro-manage, hold onto ownership and hold onto details.


I guess this book is intentionally jumping between multipliers and diminishers? It's the only trick it uses! I hope I don't get bored by it, or maybe I'll find it useful.

Comparing Diminishers and Multipliers

Assumption "They can't figure it out without me"
Assumption "They're smart and will figure it out"
Disciplines 1. The Empire Builder Hoards resources, under-utilises talent 2. The Tyrant Creates a tense environment that supresses thinking and creativity 3. The Know-It-All Directives show off how much they know 4. The Decision Maker Makes confusing, centralised, abrupt decisions 5. The Micro-manager Drives results individually
Disciplines 1. The Talent Magnet Attracts and maximises talent 2. The Liberator Creates an intense but comfortable environment for great thinking and creativity 3. The Challenger Defines opportunities that stretch people 4. The Debate Maker Drives a process of rigorous debate to reach decisions 5. The Investor Gives ownership, invests in their success
<50% utilisation
>100% utilisation

Surprising findings of Ms

They have a hard edge

Don't expect them to be "feel good" managers

See a lot but also expect a lot - oozes appreciation over time.

It's much more satisfying.

They don't play small

You're not stepping to the side, or playing small so someone else can shine.

They are also using themselves to the fullest.

They play in a way that invites others to play as well.

They have a great sense of humor

They don't take themselves or things too seriously

They put people at ease, where they can be themselves.

  • You might be acting like a diminisher without know it