Before we can understand the importance of wisdom in the business world, it is important to get a handle on the concept itself, which has only recently begun to be studied.” -Dr. Chuck Oden
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Dr. Chuck Oden, who teaches business at St. Leo University, next to the North Florida Community College campus, was once again a guest speaker at the Madison Rotary Club. Several weeks ago, he spoke about leadership and motivation. At the July 2 meeting, he spoke on the subject of not just wisdom and business, but the idea of wisdom in business. Does it have a place in business? How does one affect the other? How do they work together? And how does this affect the bottom line?
“Who is the wisest person you know?” Oden asked several Rotarians.
The answers varied: my wife, my grandmother and my father.
Still others mentioned teachers, community leaders, Jesus Christ and the Wizard of Oz.
“Why did you think they were wise?” Oden asked each one. Again the answers varied, because the definition of wisdom is so multifaceted.
It is one of those concepts that people believe they know about, or at least believe they would recognize it when they see it, but when they try to define it, it quickly proves elusive. A wealth of knowledge is a must, but that can’t be all there is to it. Many people can quickly call to mind someone they either know, or know of, who is considered well-educated, “book-smart” or whatever, but whose actions and behavior are quite foolish.
Before we can understand the importance of wisdom in the business world, Oden told the audience, it is important to get a handle on the concept itself, which has only recently begun to be studied. For a long time, the idea of wisdom in business had been lost in the U.S., which was focused almost exclusively on the industrial and bottom line aspects. For a long time, the business model for the U.S. has been hinged on the profit motive at the expense of being unhinged from the purpose motive, but that appears to be shifting a little.
Research into the idea and concept of wisdom has defined three dimensions: the cognitive dimension, or what we call the intellect; the affective dimension, or the emotional intelligence and well-being, and the reflective dimension, or how gained wisdom influences the way we see and understand the world around us.
The cognitive dimension includes a superior level and extraordinary scope of knowledge, judgement, and a depth of understanding about a subject or a situation while understanding the limits of knowledge. It is knowledge of the positive and negative aspects of human behavior; expert judgement concerning difficult life situations, ability to view problems from a long-term perspective and analyze consequences. It includes understanding of interpersonal relationships and a deep comprehension of human nature. It is a desire to know the truth and embracing the contradictions in life, the good and the bad, the finite and the eternal, and understand from this, that life is not fair, nor should one expect it to be fair.
The affective dimension our emotional intelligence and well-being, includes positive and understanding behavior towards others, emotional management, the ability to understand context, the desire for social contact and empathy for others. It is people who are interested in the world around them, who are active and inspired, but who do not rely on temporary measures for happiness, and those who are interested in the personal growth and well-being of their friends and being a part of things around them, not just living a pleasurable life. The affective dimension of wisdom resolves conflicts through cooperation, not dominance submission or avoidance. The affective dimension helps people deal effectively rather than destructively with anger in a business setting. The affective dimension is how managers deal effectively with employees and their emotions in a business setting. It is how people resolve conflicts rather than leaving them to simmer and possibly boil over one day.
The reflective dimension is the ability and willingness to look at things from different perspectives, acceptance of responsibility and lack of a tendency to blame others for one’s own situations. It includes intuition that comes from many years of experience, the voices in the back of the head that show the right thing to do. It is reflective thinking, withholding judgement and understanding why things happen or why some decisions are chosen over others, through spiritual or philosophical introspection.
There is not one short easy definition of wisdom, said Oden. It is a definition that has to be built up from many things. Its place in the business world is one of promoting cohesiveness and job satisfaction, where managers understand people problems as well as production problems and how one affects the other as they deal effectively with employees. It is also where employees are able to see things long term and are less likely to engage in unethical behavior.
In business, wisdom allows managers and fellow workers to see the positive traits in each other and help each other see them too, much like the Wizard of Oz, who saw the courage the Lion didn’t know he had, or the big heart belonging to the Tin Man.
The most effective managers, said Oden, are the ones who realize that “the days of sit down shut up and do your job are long gone.”
The three dimensions of wisdom, the cognitive, the affective and the reflective work, although not yet heavily researched, nevertheless will go a long way together to positively affect the bottom line.