Wisdom is action-oriented

Brad C. Anderson

To act, you must use your power.[1] Wisdom, therefore, requires power–but it requires us to use power wisely. How do we use power wisely?

Remember, values guide wise action, so we use power wisely when we exercise it to pursue values we venerate.

Knowledge is required but insufficient for wisdom. We use power wisely when we use it to define rationality consistent with the values we pursue. We use power wisely when we recognize the limits of rationality. Knowing rationality’s limits leads us to listen to the knowledge other groups possess, which creates a more vibrant picture of our problems and to develop innovative solutions.

The previous two chapters plus this one have presented frameworks to understand the three underlying structures of wisdom: values, rationality, and power. In real life, these structures do not operate in isolation but interact in vibrant and dynamic ways. The chapters in the following section of this textbook explore these interactions to give you real insights into how to facilitate the development of wise organizations.


In This Chapter, You Learned

The dimensions of power

  • Scholars have classified power into four dimensions.
    • One-dimensional power: The ability to get people to do something that you want
    • Two-dimensional power: The ability to get what you want through suppressing conflict and limiting the scope of debate
    • Three-dimensional power: The ability to get what you want by influencing the preferences of others
    • Four-dimensional power: The dense web of power networks through which societies organize themselves.

The faces and sites of power in organizations

  • Faces of power describe the forms through which people experience power. These faces include episodic and systematic power.
    • Episodic power is the direct exercise of power, including coercion and manipulation.
    • Systematic power is the web of power that creates organizing structures within social systems, including domination and subjectification.
  • Sites of power define where power operates within organizations. It includes:
    • Power in organizations
    • Power through organizations
    • Power over organizations
    • Power against organizations

How people and groups exercise power

  • People and groups exercise power through several means.
    • Power and rationality, including defining rationality, ignoring rationality, and using rationalization as rationality
    • Power relations, including maintaining stability, conflict, production of power relations, reproduction of power relations, historical power relations

How this textbook views power

  • Though there are many ways people see power, this textbook adopts an approach used when seeking to develop phronesis. The principles of this conceptualization include:
    • Power is a positive and creative force.
    • Power exists as a dense web of social relations.
    • Power is dynamic
    • Power produces knowledge, and knowledge produces power.
    • How power is exercised is more important than identifying who has power.
    • Start your study of power with small questions

  1. Hardy, C., & Clegg, S. R. (1996). Chapter 3.7: Some Dare Call It Power. In S. R. Clegg, C. Hardy, & W. R. Nord (Eds.), Handbook of Organization Studies (pp. 622–641). London, UK: Sage Publications.


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Wisdom is action-oriented 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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