“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” ~ Isaac Asimov
A Glass Half Full
This melancholy quote has been a motivating challenge for us at SeaChange—how do we accelerate the development of wisdom in leaders and teams? The commitment to that quest is embedded in our logo.
If the answers were self-evident, we’d all be enlightened by now. Clearly we’re not. IS there a way to fast-forward the acquisition of wisdom?
First of all, a distinction needs to be made between knowledge and wisdom. At its simplest, the former pertains to the information and skills that a person gains through experience and education. The latter is how well that knowledge is applied.
The Aims of Education
As parents, we attempt to guide our children in their decision-making. What were you thinking? Use your head! You know better than that! We may not always choose the right words or tone, but our parental instincts are to instill an ability in our children to make good use of what they already know—to make wise choices.
Knowledge creation is one of the core aims of higher education. What about wisdom creation? What would that look like at the college or graduate level? Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business is paying special attention to creating knowledge and wisdom. Dean Matthew Slaughter describes their approach:
"Tuck prepares leaders to become the difference in the world of business and beyond. During your time at Tuck, the community will support you in tackling new ideas, exploring the diverse planet, and growing the confident humility that is the hallmark of wise leaders."
A Leadership Paradox
Confident Humility. Those words seem like odd bedfellows, but as we’ve noted in past blogs confidence and humility not only co-exist in great leaders, but are highly complimentary.
F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed that the “test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, and still maintain the ability to function.” We would argue that first-rate wisdom asks us to hold contradictory thoughts simultaneously while introducing a third element of not knowing. The ease with which we relate to this state of not-knowingness correlates to our level of confident humility.
Across the Universe
At the trans-national level, substantial efforts are being made to foster organizational wisdom. Wisdom 2.0 brings together leaders from around the world to explore how to live with and leverage technology in a way that supports mindfulness and human connection.
The B Team is a consortium of global business leaders intent on mainstreaming a business model built on a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. There’s obviously a widespread desire to cultivate wisdom more intentionally. How is that actually done?
Wisdom is grown, not manufactured. It often originates from deeply personal experience, usually in the form of a challenge or hardship. It involves gaining a larger perspective that transcends the boundaries of self--a meta awareness of awareness itself.
Krista Tippet, host of NPR’s On Being, has written an exquisite defense of love, faith, hope, humility and resiliency in her book, Becoming Wise. As her title implies, we’re not born wise and we don’t graduate with a wisdom degree. Rather it is an emergent state of being that we grow into, depending on the humanity of our choices every step of the way. “We want to be called to our best selves. We long to figure out what that would look like.”
Re-Learning What We’ve Always Known
For the last five years we’ve been designing the Quest for Excellence framework--an intensive learning environment that naturally seeds and feeds wisdom. None of the ideas are new. Indeed most of the elements have ancient pedagogical roots. The formula is simple: the pursuit of holistic excellence both in input and output.
Where we are breaking new ground is in the integrated application of these age-old modalities to the development of a modern leader.
The original Greek word for wisdom is sophia, which means clarity.
Enabling society to gain wisdom apace with the surging knowledge of science is dependent on the clarity of our focus in evolving whole-minded and whole-hearted leaders.
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