1 Wisdom

Brad C. Anderson

Learning Objectives

In this chapter, you will learn the following.

  • What wisdom is
    • The context-dependent nature of wisdom
    • Three themes of wisdom: (1) Values guide wise action, (2) Knowledge is required, but insufficient for wise action, (3) Wisdom is action-oriented
  • Whether we can teach wisdom
  • How to develop the attributes that lead to wisdom

Can we create organizations that act wisely? It is easy to be cynical about such a question. The news shows us images of misbehaving corporations and ineffective governments. Those who have gone to work in large organizations return with tales of mind-numbing bureaucracy, nonsensical policies, and ruthless managers. Wisdom, it seems, is a rarity.

Yet, consider the following. In 1981, forty-four percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. By 2015, only ten percent did[1]. In 1950, the global average life expectancy was forty-eight years[2]. By 2014, we extended that to seventy-one years[3].  We did not achieve these accomplishments by accident, but rather through an intentional, coordinated effort across hundreds of organizations and thousands of people spanning the globe. Some might consider organizations capable of such achievements wise.

Thus, the question is not can we create wise organizations, for it seems we already have some capacity to do so. Instead, it is how we can create wise organizations on purpose. Is wisdom the product of chance, or is it an attribute we can develop?

This textbook is premised on the assumption that wisdom is an attribute we can develop and lays out a framework to do so. First, though, we must understand what wisdom is, which the following section does.


  1. Rosner, M., & Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2017, March 27). Global Extreme Poverty. Retrieved July 19, 2019, from http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s10887-016-9126-7
  2. Prentice, T. (2006). Health, History, and Hard Choices: Funding Dilemmas in a Fast-changing World. Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.who.int/global_health_histories/seminars/presentation07.pdf
  3. The World Bank Group. (2019). Life Expectancy at Birth, Total (Years) | Data. Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN

License

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

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