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Power, Responsibility & Wisdom: Exploring the issues at the core of Ethical Decision-Making and ... - page 5 / 13





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There is an enormous amount of literature that explores Wisdom, and this can provide useful insights into what works and what doesn’t? However, partly because, for various reasons, the word Wisdom has been widely misused and misunderstood, it might be useful to explain how I got involved in exploring this generally neglected dimension of thinking about how people, organisations and society work well in practice.

My background is Science, with Engineering and Business degrees, and a career in industry and finance that ended up with my writing and lecturing on Strategy, where I consider Strategy to be about understanding what makes organization, people and society work, and what helps them work better. Recognising that ‘better’ is a values driven word. In other words, I have a very practical approach to these issues.

It is worth emphasizing that I didn’t have a classical education and, perhaps I should also mention that in this journey and discussion, I have no religious agenda.

Reflecting on those earlier experiences lead to exploring the questions: What do we mean by Wisdom? And Why it is an important subject for both organizations and society? This interest arose particularly from two directions. First my interest in strategy in the early 1990’s was very influenced by the widespread discovery (or more strictly re-discovery) of the importance of Organisational Learning, (largely thanks to the work of Peter Senge and his book The Fifth Discipline) and this is reflected in two relevant wise quotes:

„Effective learning is the only sustainable competitive advantage‟


„Only if the rate of learning is greater than the amount of change are we likely to find change equated with progress?‟

The net result of this emphasis on learning naturally leads to the question: What is it important to learn? Trying to answer that question partly lead to the massive growth in the Knowledge Management industry. I was brought up on the Data/Information/Knowledge pyramid, which ended with Wisdom at the top. Yet most Knowledge Management books, with a few notable exceptions, do not discuss the role and importance of Wisdom.

The second dimension arose in the late 1990’s, when I was involved in a number of Futuresrelated activities in the run up to the Millennium. In fact, the recent move into the new Millennium was probably the most focused point in human history for exploring these questions. In these discussions there was an enormous emphasis on technology. But I found that almost no-one had looked at what had we really learned over the past two or three thousand years that was really important to pass

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