The Path Forward

Brad C. Anderson

This chapter considered ways to create organizations capable of integrating values, rationality, and power to develop the capacity to act wisely. We have covered a lot in this textbook. You now know many aspects of organizational wisdom. Knowing, however, is not enough. Though knowledge is required, it is insufficient for wise action, after all.

The following two chapters explore ways you can put what you have learned into practice. Chapter XI discusses practices you can adopt that will develop your ability to act wisely.

Remember, though, that wisdom is action-oriented. It is not knowing the right thing but doing it. Taking action requires hope and courage.

Wisdom requires hope because you must believe we can act to solve our problems. It requires courage because you must be willing to face the risks of failure and the consequences of “rocking the boat.” Chapter XII closes this textbook with a discussion of how you might find your courage to act.


In This Chapter, You Learned

Incorporating values into recruitment processes

  • When personal values align with organizational values, champions can become a powerful force of effective action.
  • Incorporate screening for values in recruitment processes (through, for example, banding applicants into categories based on skill level and then choosing from the top-skilled category for complementary values)

Building teams capable of wise action

  • Effective teams
    • Have a clear scope
    • Have clear priorities
    • Have access to the information they need to do their job
    • Are interdependent
    • Have stable membership
    • Have roles for every member
    • Have members chosen for skills and self-awareness.
    • Create norms of openly discussing issues
    • Are shielded from the organization’s political turmoil

Creating an organization capable of tackling the unknown

  • Developing the capacity to engage in collective reasoning: Structural elements
    • Create credibility
    • Stimulate diversity of thought
    • Invest in communication
    • Develop extended networks
    • Provide appropriate tools for communication
  • Developing the capacity to engage in collective reasoning: Actions & attitudes
    • Understand how you use your power to disempower others
    • Identify the possibilities of teamwork and work to develop your team.
    • Step back from daily pressures to get a broader view of the situation
    • Help the group consider their situation in a new light.
    • Know that you cannot control everything
    • Understand wisdom has a spiritual aspect of meaning and values
    • Become a life-long learner
  • Appreciative inquiry
    • Appreciative inquiry is a positive approach; it requires reflection and awareness of the world’s interrelated nature.
    • Partner with people/groups with relevant experience
    • Develop good questions. Big questions. Compelling questions. World-changing questions
    • Engage with the public
    • Build structures supporting change (maintain adaptability and use the power of metaphors)
    • Embrace “wicked problems.”
    • Identify positive deviants
  • Deal with uncertainty by proceeding in a spirit of experimentation
    • Develop min specs rather than maximum rules
    • Adopt the action-reflection cycle
    • Use your contextual (cultural) rationality to protect yourself from the risks of failure within your organization.

Creating structures that facilitate organizational wisdom

  • Develop goals and plans that focus on multiple stakeholders, including customers, employees, and owners
  • Push decision making to sites of expertise in your organization & base rewards on performance
  • Create systems that facilitate the free flow of communication
  • Maintain stability
  • Recognize differences as a source of innovation
  • Focus on training that develops general skills rather than firm-specific skills
  • Tie compensation to employees’ skills and knowledge

The importance of developing your own bureaucratic, institutional, and contextual (cultural) rationality of your operating environment

  • Develop your bureaucratic rationality by improving your institutional rationality
    • Job training
    • Work experience in an industry
  • Develop your bureaucratic rationality by improving your contextual (cultural) rationality
    • Work experience with a specific organization


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The Path Forward 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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