Following on from my last post 'Where is the wisdom in your organisation?' it might be an idea to work out just what we are talking about here. What is wisdom?
One way of looking at this is to think about what a wise person would be like, if we met one. How would we know if we met a wise person?
What would tell us?
Well we would probably talk about attributes like making good decisions, making wise choices and doing wise things. But what is that that makes something a wise choice, decision or action?
Does something become wise if we agree with it? There does appear to be something here that something to do with agreeableness, even if at first we didn't understand or agree with it. There is a property of general human agreeableness to the decision, action or choice. Wise decisions tend to be pretty recognisable as such to most people. However general agreeableness is not on it's own a sufficient attribute to get something identified as wise. I can agree to something without finding it wise.
There is also a suggestion of consideration with wisdom. That the issue at hand appears to have been well thought through or considered. This usually means that a range of angles or perspectives have been examined and usually angles and perspectives that go beyond that which would be normal or average. So we could say a wise decision is one where the individual has weighed up and thought through a wider set of implications and outcomes than would have been normal to expect.
But is this not just intelligence? Well maybe. Or...
Maybe not. Wisdom is a step beyond 'just' intelligence. Wisdom suggests more than just putting the pieces together or problem solving. There is the idea of good judgement, particularly in situations where there is uncertainty or ambiguity. And a 'good' judgement strongly suggests that the decision or judgement is ethically and morally sound, that it is best for the individuals concerned and society in general as well as wider systems like the planet.
Wisdom therefore points towards actions and choices which have been thought through and have the widest possible positive impact. Good judgement and wisdom go hand in hand.
The thing that usually defines wisdom or a 'good' judgement is where it is made in complex, ambiguous and unclear situations. This is what often moves a judgement, decision or action from the ordinary or normal to the extraordinary or wise. The ability to move beyond the obvious and craft a decision or action that takes into account wider (often ethical and moral issues) in non-standard and incomplete or shifting circumstances.
In my next post I will have a look at why wisdom is an important and all too often neglected trait in the workplace.