1.2.5 Wisdom

1.2.5 Wisdom

            According to Ackoff (1989) wisdom is an extrapolative and non-deterministic, non-probabilistic process. It calls upon all the previous levels of consciousness, and specifically upon special types of human programming (moral, ethical codes, etc.). Wisdom is the essence of philosophical probing. It gives us understanding about which there has previously been no understanding, and in doing so, goes far beyond understanding itself. Unlike the previous four levels, it asks questions to which there is no (easily-achievable) answer, and in some cases, to which there can be no humanly-known answers. Wisdom is therefore, the process by which we also discern, or judge, between right and wrong, good and bad.

            Reviewing the work of many other researchers Martin (2007) argues that Wisdom is greater than knowledge, intelligence, and experience. Wisdom is essentially doing the right thing. A wise thought, or wisdom, is generally held to be a function of great intelligence, a wealth of experience, and conviction in values that include serving "the greater good".

            In his paper Martin (2007) listed the character traits of a wise person which include compassion, empathy, altruism, sagacity, prudence, and others, including the ability to see a situation from multiple perspectives and to appreciate the consequences of actions on the future lives and welfare of those people and communities he or she serves. He further explains wise individuals are deeply self-aware: they know their strengths and their shortcomings; they are sensitive to their own needs, wants, and emotional states. While deeply committed to and personally responsible for "the common good," wise individuals have the capacity to detach or "distance" themselves (in terms of satisfying their own egos and self-interests) from the problems confronting them and, thus, can operate objectively and with an open mind. These attributes work in concert to permit exceptional and encompassing consideration of the "big picture" as well as acute situations, leading to or enabling effective problem-solving and dispute resolution, decision-making and planning, and implementation.

            He further argues that while intelligence and wisdom are often used synonymously, they are not the same. One may be very intelligent and, yet, not be or act wisely. Intelligence enables us to think, analyze, and solve problems within specific and known contexts. Wisdom transcends typical problems and known contexts. The wise person can generate useful solutions in novel circumstances, limited not by what he or she has learned through previous study or experience. Previous learning and experience may bias and limit understanding of context. The wise individual is able to see with clarity into complex situations, understand dynamic relationships concerning cause and effect, and make decisions or take actions that serve the interests of the common good.

             Within an organization context, wisdom is the application of collective knowledge. It is known as Organizational Wisdom (OW).  Organizational Wisdom is a complex and very dynamic concept. Hay (2007) has listed 24 constituent elements of organizational wisdom:

Table: 24 Constituent Elements of Organizational Wisdom

1. Emphasis on Learning and Adaptability.

2. Domain / Content Training and Education.

3. Teamwork and Collaboration.

4. Appreciation for Complexity.

5. Knowledge.

6. General Approach to Problem-Solving.

7. Experience.

8. Learning and Thinking Styles.

9. Systems Thinking.

10. Biases, Beliefs, and Assumptions.

11. Context.

12. Learning.

13. Reflection.

14. Wise Thoughts.

15. Effective Actions and Strategies.

16. Successful Outcomes.

17. What Works; What Doesn't.

18. Perceived Value of Reflection.

19. Opportunity.

20. Competence.

21. Confidence

22. Motivation.

23. Incentives.

24. Values.

Relationships amongst these factors are dynamic, non-linear, and complex. For doing the right things a synergy amongst these factors is required. Unfortunately, many organizations lack this synergy; hence fail to extract benefits from organizational wisdom.