What does this have to do with organizational wisdom?

Brad C. Anderson

Chapter I identified three themes of wisdom:

  • Values: Values guide wise action
  • Rationality: Knowledge is required but insufficient for wise action
  • Power: Wisdom is action-oriented

Under a critical realist framework, values, rationality, and power are structures that enable or constrain actions.[1]

Values, for example, inform the ends we find worth achieving and the means we find appropriate to achieve them. By defining the ends we pursue and the methods we use, values enable those actions consistent with our values (or those of the organization) and constrain actions that oppose them.

Rationality encompasses what we know, how we know it, and how we justify our actions.[2] Rationality, therefore, informs action by giving us our understanding of the environment in which we operate. What we know (or think we know) and what we consider valid evidence enables some activities while constraining others.

Power is the creative force that organizes social systems and allows them to act.[3] People within social systems (such as organizations) create this power network by distributing resources and authority among its members. Depending on the role an individual fills in the organization, this distribution enables them to perform some actions while constraining them from performing others.

To develop organizational wisdom, individuals need to understand the underlying structures of values, rationality, and power with their organization. They must then use that understanding to develop and enact strategies to achieve desired outcomes.


Key Takeaways

  • Values, rationality, and power are essential themes of organizational wisdom.
  • Values, rationality, and power are structures under the critical realist framework.

  1. 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.
  2. Townley, B. (2008). Reason’s Neglect: Rationality and Organizing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
  3. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Toronto: Random House.


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What does this have to do with organizational wisdom? 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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