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Power, Responsibility & Wisdom: Exploring the issues at the core of Ethical Decision-Making and ... - page 8 / 13

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their own personal interests. Incorporating this wider (Responsibility-driven) interest into our decision-making at all levels, irrespective of whether they are personal, organisational or societal, is the ultimate test of both values and leadership.

Re-interpreting the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom relationship

The traditional approach to the data-information-knowledge-Wisdom link sees a close relationship within a pyramid that starts with data at the bottom, moves through information and knowledge, to end with Wisdom at the top, giving, in theory, greater 'added value' as we move up that pyramid. In my view, this progression has a fundamental flaw, arising from the fact that the relationship between these four items is not linear and there is no basic step-by-step, linear, movement up the pyramid from data to Wisdom. The mechanistic view of that progression is partly a reflection of the Newtonian tradition, repackaged by the Management Science of Taylorism.

In practice, the integration of all four elements requires at least one, if not two, quantum (/qualitative) jumps. Information can certainly be considered a ‘higher’ form of data, as it provides greater context and so greater meaning. However, the transformation of information into knowledge requires the first quantum jump. A book that describes how a jet engine works is an example of information. It is only when information is actually used that it is turned into knowledge. In a similar way science produces valueand valuesfree information. It isn’t until something is done with that information that we need to recognise that all our choices (/decisions), are concerned with adding value, as well as being values driven, and these decisions are driven by our perception that one alternative is somehow ‘better’ than another.

In essence, knowledge is information in use and, of course, it is through its use, and through the feedback learning loop, that you gain further information, which then gets turned into even more legitimate knowledge based action. Overall, this is a never ending, dynamic, process.

But where does Wisdom come in? Wisdom is the vehicle we use to integrate values into our decision-making processes. It is one thing to turn information into knowledge that makes things happen through its use, but it is quite another thing to make the ‘right’ (/’good’/’better’) things happen. How we actually use knowledge depends on our values. Instead of moving up from data/information/knowledge to Wisdom we are, in parallel, moving down from Wisdom to knowledge -- and that is how we incorporate our values into our decision-making. Hence we can see the application and relevance of what is generally called Wisdom. It is only justified to consider that decisions can be reduced to a cost/benefit analysis, if it is possible to quantify all the ‘values’ elements within the equation in monetary terms. In the past values have been included implicitly, whereas today that dimension invariably needs to be made much more explicit. All decisions involve the integration of the

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