All this sounds great, but how do we achieve it?

Brad C. Anderson

The preceding sections explored wisdom at the individual, group, organizational, and strategic levels. We introduced the many challenges individuals in organizations face to acting wisely. We further explored how wisdom manifests at each of these levels and the impact of wisdom’s absence. In this discussion, this chapter introduced many ideas that probably sound nice to many people. How do we implement these ideas, though?

If it were easy, wisdom would be common. The complexity and competing pressures in organizational environments are real. In the face of these challenges, the ideas that sound insightful in texts seem hopelessly naive. How do we overcome these challenges? How do we imbue people with the skills they need to act wisely in the ‘real world?’

It is these questions that the remainder of this text seeks to answer. For now, let us quickly summarize the three themes of wisdom.

  1. Values: Values guide wise action
  2. Rationality: Knowledge is required but insufficient for wise action
  3. Power: Wisdom is action-oriented

Our first step along this path is introducing a framework this text will use to understand organizational life. This framework, which the next chapter describes in detail, is called critical realism.

After that, we will dive into the three structures of wisdom. First, we will explore values and how they operate in organizations.

Then, we will consider rationality. Rationality is related to knowledge in that it considers how we come to understand and learn about the world and rationalize our actions. In this chapter, we will discuss the many different forms rationality can take in organizations.

Following that, we will discuss power. Power is related to action, for one must exercise their power to act in an organization.

With that background, this textbook explores how people put values, rationality, and power into practice in an organization. Later chapters will explore how power and values influence each other as well as power and rationality. We will consider how individuals in organizations can build alliances that support desired actions and manage resistance.

The textbook will then tie all these pieces together to address how to develop organizational wisdom purposefully.

The final section of this textbook then looks at the road ahead. Concluding chapters will discuss what actions you can take to develop your wisdom. This textbook then closes with a discussion of how you can find the courage to create a better and stronger world.

We have an exciting road of discovery ahead of us. Let’s get into it.

In this chapter, you learned:

What an organization is

  • Organizations are groups of people possessing a hierarchy and division of labour who collectively work to achieve a common purpose.

Individual aspects of wisdom

Group aspects of wisdom

Organizational elements of wisdom

  • At the level of the organization, acting wisely requires individuals who emphasize and honour fundamental values, who inspire others to solve problems creatively, and who use power constructively.

Strategic elements of wisdom

  • At the strategic level, acting wisely requires leaders who recognize their organization is embedded in a network of stakeholders, each of whom pursues their values. Rather than undermining others’ value-positions, wise leaders harmonize the values of all stakeholders as much as possible. They do the ethically practical given their situation and can operate in environments of complexity and uncertainty.


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All this sounds great, but how do we achieve it? Copyright © 2020 by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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