What is Wisdom?
There seems to be a lot of chatter about wisdom these days. There are discussions about the lack of wisdom and discussions about the over use of “wisdom” sources. All interesting discussions and related to our services which help people get to higher levels. We encourage people to increase their personal wisdom and use it in their decision making processes.
Yet, there is debate about wisdom and we get questions about “What is wisdom?” This is a great question that needs to be answered for our leaders and our emerging leaders who read our information.
Wisdom is the combination of experience and reflection. It allows the holder of this wisdom more choices and alternatives to make the correct decision depending upon the situation or a solve a problem based upon the real issues of the problem.
— Voss W Graham
Let me discuss the ingredients of Wisdom = Experience plus Reflection.
This is the missing link for most of the younger generation, which appears to be very smart in many ways, yet most are missing and unaware of this part of the equation relative to leadership. Intelligence or IQ is a good thing to have as long as you know how to apply it correctly in various situations and circumstances. A one size fits all decision or response is not the answer – it is an alternative answer.
Personally, when I was a “newbie” (NCIS tag for new person on board.) well I and my new buddies at work all thought we were the best thing since sliced bread and we had all the answers. All you needed to do was ask us – if we hadn’t already told you – what to do and we had an opinion. We thought at the time, our opinions were wisdom or the answer to everything. Turn us lose and we would make everything better. Later I realized for the most part we had only offered our opinions or assessment of the situations – not necessarily the right or experienced answer.
There are only two ways to gain experience.
One is to live a long and full life and being actively engaged in whatever you like doing. Then you pay attention and learn about what works and does not work given a particular set of circumstances in your chosen field of life. This is a longer term process and is based upon your skill of self awareness. How well you can determine the cause and effect relationships of your actions or inactions is key to this process working functionally well.
Two is to learn how things work and practice your skills while observing the effects of your decisions. Now, I am not talking solely about a school room environment or even most training room environments – which tend to provide stand up educators who tell you what to do. The deficiency with this method of education is minimum how to knowledge is transferred unless you happen to be a genius in translating information into useable guidance.
The best methods are case studies and simulations. These two methods force your decision making talents to the forefront. Case studies are excellent to practice thinking about assumptions and alternative actions, priorities, or choices. Yet, my favorite is simulations – business simulations. Here you gain multiple years of experience in one or two days of decision making, observation and checking the impact of your decisions upon the results. All without damage to your actual organization when you make the wrong call! Business simulations prepare the inexperienced to become knowledgeable and experienced at a faster pace than waiting for years of actual work to past.
Now we get to the real issue regarding the true level of experience or knowledge a person or an organization possesses. Without reflection all learning experiences are reduced or only taken at face value without the benefit of reflection.
It is important to understand reflection is not a grading system used to judge right or wrong. It is a time to reflect regarding options available at the time. What totally worked during this time? What assumptions supported what worked? What other assumptions were made at the time? Could the choice have been improved based upon those assumptions or undiscussed assumptions? What did not go well during the implementation? What are the causes to the final effect of the decision? Could they have been impacted positively at the time of the decision?
These questions are only suggestions into the types of questions to ask during the moments of reflection. They based address two issues – what did I/we do well? And, What could I improve upon? The first answer tells you what worked and you should continue to use the answer in those situations. The second answer tells you where to focus your curiosity and flexibility to improve your thought process.
Using the business simulation process, reflection is part of the process. The debrief of results from each team creates an added learning experience into the cause and effect relationships of every decision. Maybe this is why the high performance organizations are using these types of learning systems.
I hope this helps you understand the nature of wisdom – it is applied knowledge over time. However, you can use experiential learning to accelerate the process of understanding the role of application upon results.
If you need assistance in the business simulation areas, we have half day, full day and two day simulation processes in the areas of manufacturing, healthcare services, and distribution (supply chain management). Give us a call at 901-757-4434, ask for Voss (me!) and we can discuss your objectives.
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