74 The Challenges of Developing Wisdom

Brad C. Anderson

Developing wisdom is different than learning other topics. To study accounting, you learn how to construct income statements and balance sheets. Becoming a scientist requires you to learn how to perform experiments. Artists learn how to paint, and so on.

Those we consider wise, however, possess not only discipline-specific skills but also social and emotional intelligence, along with specific attitudes towards themselves and the challenges they face. Wisdom is a different kind of beast to master. Before we delve into specific activities you might undertake to develop wisdom, let’s first reiterate some crucial characteristics of this attribute that Chapters I & II introduced.

What people perceive as wise depends on the specific situation they are in, influenced by their values and cultural background. So, when we speak of wisdom, we need to ask, Whose wisdom? The person I think is wise, you may consider a dangerous fool. Wisdom is subjective, varying between people, and , varying between settings and situations. You may think a course of action is wise, but that is only your opinion.[1][2][3]

Moreover, we are unable to measure the wisdom of a choice objectively. Life happens in real-time. Once we have decided, we cannot go back and try something different to compare the results. We may think the decision we made was good, but we will never know what might have been had we chosen something different. No matter how wonderful the outcome of our actions, there will always exist a nagging doubt, a lingering, “What if I chose this instead of that?[4]

Additionally, though we might gain insights and develop skills the wise rely on, wisdom is gained through cumulative experience. Hopefully, you will be wiser in ten years than you are now, and wiser still in twenty years. Wisdom is not a destination but a journey. It is not an endpoint but a process. You do not attain wisdom. You develop it.[5]

So, how can you develop your wisdom? Let’s start by looking at your mindset.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Wisdom is context-dependent
  • Wisdom cannot be objectively measured
  • We gain wisdom with experience

  1. McNamee, S. (1998). Reinscribing Organizational Wisdom and Courage: The Relationally Engaged Organization. In S. Srivastva & D. L. Cooperrider (Eds.), Organizational Wisdom and Executive Courage1 (pp. 101–117). San Francisco: The New Lexington Press.
  2. Pitsis, T. S., & Clegg, S. R. (2007). Interpersonal Metaphysics--"We Live in a Political World": The Paradox of Managerial Wisdom. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 399–422). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  3. Sampson, E. E. (1998). The Political Organization of Wisdom and Courage. In S. Srivastva & D. L. Cooperrider (Eds.), Organizational Wisdom and Executive Courage (pp. 118–133). San Francisco: The New Lexington Press.
  4. Anderson, B. C. (2019). Values, Rationality, and Power: Developing Organizational Wisdom--A Case Study of a Canadian Healthcare Authority. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  5. Kessler, E. H., & Bailey, J. R. (2007). Introduction--Understanding, Applying, and Developing Organizational and Managerial Wisdom. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. xv–lxxiv). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

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The Challenges of Developing Wisdom by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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