Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Are we Wise enough for a Wisdom-Based Economy?



Interesting views come across my desk from time to time and Pepper de Callier’s article is among them, to the degree that it began me thinking about how such an economy might be realized. Here’s de Callier’s opening: 

The Wisdom-based Economy[1]
Say good-bye to the knowledge-based economy.  Knowledge is everywhere.  We are awash in a sea of knowledge.  It is a commodity today.  Say hello to the Wisdom-based Economy.  This economy is driven by not only knowing how to use the knowledge we have access to, but understanding the subtle and powerful relationships among the various elements that come together to make wise decisions—sustainable decisions in a global marketplace.

Well, if possible (and if Pepper is correct) that would be a paradigm shift to match the latest of our supposed ages, the Information Age.
Waving goodbye to the knowledge-based economy might be a bit premature, if such a thing actually exists, but I get his drift. A bit of hyperbole heightens what is yet to come and whets the appetite. He got my juices flowing.

Wisdom is a flirtatious word. It’s defined as ‘the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight’ and there the proposition that we should take a long lead-off the knowledge base and expect to slide home to wisdom home-plate fails my personal test. We already understand subtle and powerful relationships, usually all too damned well. We’ve not used them well and if what we know continues to undermine what we need to do, then what possible hope is there for Wisdom taking the steal-sign from the 3rd base coach?

Those I consider wise have often been to what a dear friend of mine calls ‘to hell and back.’ Extensive portions of their lives have been spent failing, striving, getting things right and then perhaps failing again, quite often with more than a fair measure of personal disasters as well. They keep on truckin’, usually with a few crinkle-lines at the eyes that prove they never lost the ability to smile. Possibly that’s why wisdom is so often connected to age—the young tend to be bright, aggressive, street-smart and competent, but seldom wise. Wisdom usually comes in the package of an old charmer who would give you his shirt, because someone once gave him theirs.

We’re not short of those types in America, not by a long shot. But we’re desperately short of them in positions of power that would allow their wisdom to actually change our future course in economics, civil understanding, environmental affairs and the specific welfare all Americans once valued as theirs. Talk Shows are chock-a-block with retired Presidents and Senators, who reflect with great wisdom upon our present difficulties—at ease and with a degree of level-headedness they were unable to apply during their careers. 

Such people aren’t valued as they should be in stressful times, because the opportunists still remain at all the levers of power. Wisdom most often arises from the ashes—the hell to which wise men and women have been and come back. I admire de Callier’s proposition.

Perhaps we must wait for the ashes.


[1] Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at www.pragueleadershipinstitute.com