8 Group aspects of wisdom

Brad C. Anderson

The above describes the characteristics of individuals exhibiting phronesis. Organizations, however, often require groups of individuals to work together.

Working in groups adds to the complexity individuals encounter–for example, people in the same group may differ in their goals, morals, and knowledge. These differences may lead to negotiations where self-interest, lack of trust, and desperation may undermine the group’s ability to act wisely.[1]

Moreover, teams may face different tensions and stresses than individuals. These tensions include:[2]

  • Individuals’ needs may conflict with the group’s needs.
  • External requirements placed on the team may conflict with the team’s internal demands.
  • Short-term goals may conflict with long-term goals.
  • Multiple priorities may conflict with each other.

What a mess! Consequently, attributes that lead to individual wisdom may be insufficient to translate into group wisdom.[3] What additional attributes must individuals within groups exhibit to allow groups to act wisely?

To manage these tensions well, individuals within a group must know their own emotions and how those emotions impact their behaviour. They further need the ability to read the emotions of others and understand how that influences their behaviour.

Armed with this awareness, individuals must demonstrate an ability to manage these emotions productively.[4] That is, they must possess .[5] In addition to social and emotional intelligence, we must recognize that group wisdom is –different teams in different situations experience different tensions. Thus, in addition to social and emotional intelligence, individuals in wise teams must also exhibit flexibility and adaptability.[6]

Diverse cultural backgrounds among group members may further exacerbate these difficulties. As described above, different cultures perceive wisdom differently. Cultures may prioritize different values, possess different knowledge and different ways of understanding the world, and may possess a different view of taking effective action. In these circumstances, individuals must also possess cultural intelligence to facilitate wise group action.[7]

is an individual’s ability to adapt to different cultural settings.[8] Individuals can develop their cultural intelligence as follows.[9]

  • Understand how your culture influences your biases and values
  • Understand how other cultures influence other people’s biases and values
  • Learn how to match your behaviours to people’s expectations when working in cross-cultural environments

 

Exercises

Consider some challenging group experiences you have experienced. These could include sports teams, workgroups, student project teams, or similar. Depending on your experiences, these may or may not include inter-cultural teams.

  1. Consider the tensions that groups face, as described above. Which of these tensions did the group you are thinking of experience? How did those tensions affect group performance? How did those tensions make you feel? How did you respond? Why did you react that way?
  2. Reflect on the attributes of and, if appropriate, . If someone in the group exhibited these attributes, describe how they affected the group dynamic. If you feel no one exhibited these attributes, consider how social, emotional, and cultural intelligence may have improved the group dynamic.

Key Takeaways

  • Group wisdom requires individuals with  as well as (when working in cross-cultural teams).
  • Wise teams require adaptable members.

  1. Lewicki, R. J. (2007). Interpersonal Ethics--The Wise Negotiator. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 109–132). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  2. Nielsen, T. M., Edmondson, A. C., & Sundstrom, E. (2007). Interpersonal Logic--Team Wisdom: Definition, Dynamics, and Applications. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 21–42). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  3. Nielsen, T. M., Edmondson, A. C., & Sundstrom, E. (2007). Interpersonal Logic--Team Wisdom: Definition, Dynamics, and Applications. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 21–42). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  4. Boyatzis, R. E. (2007). Interpersonal Aesthetics--Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies Are Wisdom in Practice. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 223–242). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  5. Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185–211.
  6. Nielsen, T. M., Edmondson, A. C., & Sundstrom, E. (2007). Interpersonal Logic--Team Wisdom: Definition, Dynamics, and Applications. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 21–42). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  7. Earley, P. C., & Offermann, L. R. (2007). Interpersonal Epistemology--Wisdom, Culture, and Organizations. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 295–325). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  8. Earley, P. C., & Ang, S. (2003). Cultural Intelligence: Individual Interactions Across Cultures. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
  9. Offermann, L. R., & Phan, L. U. (2002). Culturally Intelligent Leadership for a Diverse World. In R. E. Riggio, S. E. Murphy, & J. Pirozzolo (Eds.), Multiple Intelligences and Leaderships (pp. 187–214). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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Group aspects of wisdom by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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