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Survival of the Smartest: Managing Information for Rapid Action and World-Class Performance



Survival of the Smartest: Managing Information for Rapid Action and World-Class Performance

Haim Mendelson, Johannes Ziegler

ISBN: 978-0-471-29560-0 March 1999 272 Pages

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Drawing on the innovative concept of Organizational IQ and a study of companies in seventeen countries, Survival of the Smartest charts a course for managers to follow into the twenty first century.

At the heart of the book is the authors' assessment tool of an organization's future health, which they call Organizational IQ. It measures a company's ability to quickly process information and make effective decisions. As industry clockspeeds accelerate everywhere, a high IQ has become a prerequisite for survival. Low IQ companies that the authors studied, on the other hand, have already vanished.

Case studies form Hewlett-Packard, British Petroleum, Sun Microsystems and Chrysler, among others, illustrate how companies can improve their Organizational IQ. How did Hewlett-Packard become the dominant player in printing? How did British Petroleum transform itself from a stodgy behemoth into the most agile and competitive player in the oil industry? How did Chrysler rise from the brink of bankruptcy to become the auto industry's prized asset?

In these companies, technology by itself only played a secondary role: to be successful, the entire organization had to become smarter. The authors show how key strategic decisions turned around these companies' Organizational IQ-and with it, their fortunes. A detailed company case study takes you in slow motion through the different steps you can take to improve the IQ or you own organization.

Survival of the Smartest offers a rare blend of a coherent framework, in-depth company case studies, a sound research base, and a detailed, step-by-step implementation example. Based on a landmark study of 164 organizations worldwide, conducted as part of a partnership between Stanford University, McKinsey & Company and the University of Augsburg, Organizational IQ is proving to be the acid test for the success or failure of companies around the world.

Haim Mendelson, PhD, is the James Irwin Miller Professor of Information Systems at the Stanford Business School, leader of the Technology, Organizations, and Markets area at the Stanford Computer Industry Project, co-director of the Stanford Executive Program on Strategic Uses of Information Technology, and a consultant to leading high-tech firms and financial institutions.

Johannes Ziegler, PhD, is the cofounder of Synesis Management Consulting. Synesis helps senior executives in leading high-tech companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, 3Com, and Intuit, to measure and improve their Organizational IQs. Before founding Synesis, Dr. Ziegler was a consultant with McKinsey & Company.
The Quick and the Dead.


Information Awareness.

Decision Architecture.

Internal Knowledge Dissemination.

Organizational Focus.

Information Age Business Networks.


Turbo-Charging The HP Way.

Acer's Roller-Coaster into the Information Age.

British Petroleum: From Tanker to Speedboat.


Modex: An IQ Turnaround.

Next Steps.



"Survival of the Smartest is a practical and action-oriented roadmap for managing in the Information Age. It can save you much pain by tapping into the experience of managers who have done it before."-Eric Benhamou, CEO, 3 Com

"Most executives acknowledge that they need to prepare their organizations for the challenges of the 21st century. But how do you know where you stand and what are the most important levers for improvement? Survival of the Smartest is a must read for any manager who is looking for answers to these questions." -Guenter Mooshammer, Senior VP, Vishay Semiconductor

"Mendelson and Ziegler brilliantly capture the character if organizations smart enough to function successfully in a turbulent world. Loaded with powerful concepts and how companies have successfully applied them, Survival of the Smartest will teach you hot to create a "High-IQ" company and avoid the traps that make good companies mediocre." -Jerry Porras, Lane Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford Business School, and Co-author, Built to Last

"Professor Mendelson and Dr. Ziegler make it abundantly clear that if your organization is not on the path to becoming a high-IQ company, then it is probably on the road to extinction. This book packs a lot of wisdom that is eminently useful to companies large and small, hi-tech and low-tech. With a solid research base at Stanford Business School and loads of real-world experience, Survival of the Smartest captures essential truths for management in the Information Age." -Charles Fine, Professor, Sloan School of Management, MIT, and author of Clockspeed: Winning Industry Control in the Age of Temporary Advantage

"This book shows how winning information-age firms can turn speed from a potential problem into a weapon and turn a flood of information into a competitive advantage." -Scott Cook, Co-founder, Intuit, Inc.

"Survival of the Smartest is a comprehensive set of tools for measuring the IQ of your organization and systematically improving an organization's ability to learn. I found the book to be both a pragmatic and practical way to hone the competitiveness of any company." -John McHugh, General Manager, Hewlett-Packard ProCurve Networking Business