actKM has had a recent discussion on the topic of wisdom management. Patrick and Matt have blogged on the topic and I thought I would put in my 2 cents worth. I mentioned in my note on actKM that a futures report by the UK Chartered Management Institute envisaged a probable future where technologies for capturing wisdom and wisdom management will emerge. They stated that knowledge and wisdom management will be key to organisational success. And even more – wisdom will become a valuable resource so organisations will want to access the societal, cultural and organisational memory via practices such as organisational rituals, gatherings and accounts of long-term employees. This tacit knowledge can be accessed via storytelling, anecdotes and case studies. Organisations must increasingly use products and solutions that facilitate wisdom.
The above sounds a bit like some of the later developments in knowledge management to me. But let’s explore what wisdom management could be. If the purpose of KM is about improved decision making and innovation, what would wisdom management be about? Is there a different purpose? Joe and Serena in their actKM posts seem to think that WM would be more about reducing errors in decision models or making great decisions. I tend to disagree but more on that later.
There seemed to be general agreement on actKM not to link the two words wisdom and management together (although I would not mind working in a Wisdom Management Department to be able to say I work in WMD – but then perhaps wisdom management might be a weapon of mass destruction in its own right). On this track, I have had discussions with others that KM is not about the management of knowledge but the nurturing of an environment where knowledge can be created, shared and where K can flourish (ecosystem model). So similarly, wisdom management could be the development of an environment where wisdom can be shared and nurtured?
Now all this leads on to the juicy topic of what is this wisdom thing anyway. And what makes a person wise rather than just knowledgeable? Wisdom involves ethics, sincerity and cutting through the crap. Wisdom has more to do with advice, mentoring and life-long learning. What passes as wisdom for one person is knowledge for another, and is just plain common-sense for another person. Wisdom is different to consilience (the coming together of knowledge from different domains).
I agreed with Patrick that wisdom tends to be experiential and individual and is difficult to scale. It has a lot to do with learning and with leadership. It takes time and is entirely dependent on the journey of the recipient of the wisdom.
This journey aspect is particularly important. The Getting of Wisdom is not so much about the destination (as making better decisions) but the journey of getting there – it is more about one’s own lived story and how that unfolds over time and the role of wisdom through mentors and an innate curiosity.
Wisdom and wisdom management may not clarify things in the first instance. It may be that you need to develop and change your values / beliefs in order to be at a level to receive that wisdom. Wisdom could be what you look back in hindsight as major transformative learning points in your life. It could be the spark that confused you and that you had to undertake learning to bridge that paradox and ambiguity. In this sense case then, true wisdom would be relatively rare whereas knowledge is relatively common (and I don’t mean common sense!). Wisdom may also involve being reminded of what we have forgotten.
For many, wisdom has a sense of the spiritual about it as it is personal, to do with lifelong journeys and transformation. It’s not just head stuff. It requires courage and curiosity to listen to wisdom. And sometimes, there may not be anything there anyway (the concept of zen).
Well, that’s my take on wisdom and wisdom management/leadership anyway! I can’t see it taking off anytime soon but you never know with the baby boomers and cultural creatives and downshifters with time and money on their hands, that there might be something in it. But once it is commoditised, the magic may be lost!