Recommended reading: ‘Practical Wisdom’

At some point the notion of wisdom dropped out of our organizational vocabulary. Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe tell us why that’s a problem and what we can do about it.

Incentives or rules might help address short term problems, but they won’t help you nurture a culture of “practical wisdom” in your organization -- the capacity to “figur[e] out the right way to do the right thing in a particular circumstance, with a particular person, at a particular time.”

The authors of “Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to do the Right Thing” Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe think that’s the biggest challenge facing cultural institutions today, especially ones that address complex social challenges or meet human needs. Institutions have for too long turned to rules to regulate problems or financial incentives to suffice for motivating people to do their jobs. But those fail to really cultivate in people a desire to do what they should (or even to know what the “should” is), because neither provide a real telos -- an ultimate purpose for doing (or not doing) something. And neither do anything in the way of teaching people actual moral skills, skills you would need for situations in which no rule or incentive will help you know what to do.

If this sounds remotely like a situation you face in your church, organization or community, do yourself a favor and read “Practical Wisdom.”

If you need further convincing, here’s Schwartz’s TED Talk lecture from 2009.