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More controls? More of the same thing? Or More wiser?

Ensuring wisdom in decision making process – Part 1


This is about how to bring wisdom to the mainstream, especially to organizational life, and un-shackle it from it being preserve of persons, possession of a few and making it part of organizational process.

I have been struggling with this thought for quite some time, basically as a result of reading the book. I drafted and redrafted this blog several times because of the nature of the topic. I have now reached a stage due to my limited scholarship, that now only a reader can give it a meaning or otherwise!

I hope some one might take it further too.

Till I held in my hand the book “Organizational Wisdom and Executive Courage” I did not realize that wisdom is also a subject of study for use in management of companies, or organizations. This book made me think and locate, purely for academic interest, many ‘unwise’ acts of people who were considered wise in the company. Thereafter the question as to how unwise things happen was intriguing me. By unwise acts I do not mean acts considered socially bad, which are popular; I mean things irrelevant, inconsistent, untimely etc., which are not very popular.

For instance, a company which used PDP 11/70 for commercial applications in the year 1976 itself; state-of-the art at that time; in the year 2006 was still hanging on to stand-alones on different platforms, without moving to network!

Another instance: The company rehabilitated very well the displaced people, when the mining company was established in the year 1976. In a nearby town another company started around 2006 has not learnt a lesson from this and left a displaced family to sit on the street in protest. The company could have acted wisely.

The editorial in The Indian Express of 27May 2008 on the IUCN Red List is a good reference. The topic apart, there is a line going like this. “In simple terms it means that when we introduce a new medicine, build a new township or fill up a lake, the possibility of species extinction never enters anyone’s calculation until it is too late…”

Another news item in the same newspaper on 28May 2008 reads as follows: “… operations have begun without its developer, paying heed to the environmental concerns raised at the planning stage…” (The latest news is that the company has learnt a lesson and is caring for the sparrows, as an alternative. This is admirable adoption. It took just about six months. Time is a teacher and the realization may be an outcome of a process. If they were ‘named’, ‘branded’ as ‘anti-environmental’ etc,. it would have freezed the possibility of their learning.)

These instances only seem to show the need for wisdom at the top, I used to think, as we say competency required at managerial levels and skill required at operators’ level. 
Individuals are seen or projected as wise in certain ways, but that their approach remains anecdotal may hardly be recognized. Bringing organizational wisdom on the scene on full scale could be tried only by systems approach.

That is the essence of the book and I am trying to bring it to the notice of the community.



In this connection I would like to quote a passage from the book for immediate reading and reflection.

“Who are we, then, to speak of wisdom?

Yes, we know our times are crying out for wisdom- but we back away.

As we shall see next, the silence surrounding the subject of wisdom in the management literature is conspicuous.

Is it indifference? No, we do not think so. Obviously there are many factors contributing to that silence, but the one thing that stands out is simply this: it is not easy to talk about wisdom without sounding pretentious.

Discourses on wisdom and courage are often embedded in individualistic, “great man” stories. Historically they have been content-focused debates, the seeking (for possession) of a set of permanent principles.

Indeed, one hope for this book is that we can begin to democratize our notions of wisdom and courage, to go beyond the individualism and gender bias of  “great man” stories and begin discovering wisdom and courage within the everyday, mundane activities of our organizations and institutions – precisely where they matter most.”

                                             – (Chapter 1. An Invitation to Organizational Wisdom and Executive Courage, the Editors)


An interesting maxim quoted in the book is: “Never hand over a fire in the heat of the day.” Can we not embed it, such wise guidelines, in our decision making process?

‘Moderate margin’, ‘Reasonable time span’, ‘Dodge the bullets’, ‘Sing along’ etc!
Of course such things happen occasionally. And it is at such times as to how one acts that would bring wise result. Such a capacity for wise actions may have to be built into a system continuously. Web 2.0 can be the way for organizational wisdom, shall we say?

Experience too is an important aspect for acting wisely. Not the number of years, but true experience. Training is the traditional step to generate new framework to view experience. Reflection by individuals on their experience is said to be an important aspect which enable wise action. This again has to be indulged by the individual only.

If thinking is continued in this way it boils down to the fact that the individual is central to wise action and the organization can catalyze it. It appears that in the same way as for continual improvement we need P-D-C-A cycle, for wise actions we may need ‘Kolb’s Cycle’ to be followed by individuals continually.

If every idea included in the book is thought about in this way we would certainly find a way to factor-in wisdom in decision making process, may be through the Business Rules Management and thereby in the Business Process Platform. Of course, it is a mere guess as of now and not yet a studied proposal. May need further study; true.


I wonder whether I am making some sense and I am apologetic, if I am not; and would try in a better way further in Part 2!

Sam Anbazhagan

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