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Cultivating wisdom at work

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HC Online | 19 Apr 2012, 12:00 AM Agree 0
What is wisdom, can it be cultivated, and why should organisations care whether they have it or not? Jennifer Garvey Berger has the answers.
  • Jacqueline Johns | 19 Apr 2012, 02:59 PM Agree 0
    How refreshing - someone speaking my language! Though Jennifer, I wouldn't dare to suggest your eloquence is in any way matched by my feeble mumblings.
    I am so glad someone of your education and experience is validating my humble view that an organisation can only be as effective as it's people,and that as we nurture our staff we are in fact, nurturing the business in the most effective way possible.
    With regard to growing wisdom, I strongly suggest corporate Australia (heck! why not the world?!) make onsite meditation classes compulsory. As Harvard Business School declared,"meditation and intuition are the two most valuable executive tools of the 21st century". Wisdom is within us all - meditation allows it to unfold.
  • Jennifer Garvey Berger | 02 May 2012, 11:59 AM Agree 0
    Hi Jacqueline,
    I'm glad we speak the same language! I think if more of us keep on about this idea, and if we find practices that actually support the work (as you suggest), we'll get somewhere. Thanks Harvard for spreading the word too... (Just had a meditation practice in the leadership program I'm running this morning!)
  • Sandra Banister | 03 May 2012, 08:35 AM Agree 0
    ...thanks Jacqueline for sharing your intuitive knowing. And for the Harvard quote that concurs with your wisdom! :-)
  • Bree Vreedenburgh | 03 May 2012, 03:48 PM Agree 0
    I think the reason we lack wisdom is because we were never taught how to gain it, nor how to apply it. This starts with the very nature of early schooling - our children are schooled in the same manner as those in the 1800's, having to learn facts and figures, where the result was to churn out lovely, placid little factory workers who had 'an education', but not enough for them to fancy themselves better than their masters.
    In todays society, we need to teach our children how to learn, how to apply, in fact, teach them how to acquire wisdom.
    Since all of the grown ups I know have gone through this same factory-mentality educational system, I suspect we all, too, could use a lesson or two in how to gain and apply wisdom.
  • Ingrid Studholme | 07 May 2012, 01:34 PM Agree 0
    Hello there, being passionate about wisdom and growth I read this article nodding my head throughout to find with delight at the end Jennifer is the author (hi Jennifer)! Thinking strategically and deeply about how we develop collective wisdom can only add to organisational performance and meaning....and may enable us to collectively develop creative ways to approach these tougher times that are still ahead. Ingrid
  • Mark Yeoell | 09 May 2012, 09:32 AM Agree 0
    My first thought is to ask "Enough Wisdom for what?" My second thought seems to fly in the face of the standard answer the author gets because I would say absolutely we have enough wisdom in the world. Call me an optimist if you like but I think the challenge is not one of quantity ('enough' wisdom) but of access and application. My work with groups and organizations over the past 30 years has confirmed in me over and over that the issue is not a lack of wisdom but the stifling or silencing of wisdom by the bottle necks of power and authority.

    My practice as a leader and consultant was long ago liberated by a quote I have mangled but should I think in its essence be attributed to Ronald Heifetz "You can lead with only a good question in hand!" I'm sure he didn't say it quite that way but that is what I took away from his article and the way I articulate it. So, now whenever I am faced with an organizational (or other) challenge I ask myself (and others!) not so much "what is the solution here?' but rather, "What are the powerful questions to ask here?" and "Who should I be asking these questions of? i.e. who should be in the room for the discussion? and then when those two things are answered I do the next thing required which is, I get the people who should be answering the question in a room, I ask the questions that start the conversation and then, wait for it....., wait for it.... I listen! I am invariably astounded at the wisdom that exists in the room (including,sometimes, the wisdom to say the wrong people are in the room or not all the people who should be there are there). So, "No!" I don't think there is a shortage of wisdom. I think that there is plenty of it to go around AND what tends to get in the way is the propensity for those in positions of authority to believe that they "should' have or be the ones with the answer and so they do not go further afield. They are too often trapped in what I call the "Answer Man" or "Answer Woman" syndrome - picture Clark Kent/ Kristin Wells ripping off their shirts in response to a crisis and seeing those big "Superman/ Superwoman" logos on their chests. So, misplaced assumptions about the "Answer Person" (is that politically correct enough?) role of those in authority leads, I believe, not to a lack of wisdom but a stifling of our access to it. The second stifling element is Power. Here, rather than naive assumptions about the responsibilities of authority leading to the squelching of wisdom we are more likely to see the (conscious?) active use of power to squelch wisdom in favor of the limited interests of those with power. Let me ask you - "Is there enough wisdom in the world to significantly address the issues of poverty, climate change, economic stability? I would say absolutely Yes! and there has been for years. To me the issue is not a scarcity of wisdom it is more a question of the courage and commitment to act in the face of authority and power structures/ people that stifle it wittingly or unwittingly.

    Which brings me to my final thought for this piece which is the (allegedly) Chinese proverb - "Those that know but do not act do not really know." So perhaps at the end of all my musing I arrive at the realization that information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom but that wisdom is knowledge in action that brings about appropriate (or should that be beneficial?) ends. At which point I should perhaps bring about an end to this little homily. Would that be wise?
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