Wisdom, management and organization

Nonaka, I., Chia, R., Holt, R., & Peltokorpi, V. (2014). Wisdom, management and organization. Management Learning, 45 (4), 365-376.

Excerpt: From knowledge to wisdom

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? (Eliot (2001), The Four Quartets)

Wisdom has enjoyed an inverted history; while it seemed to have been pre-eminent in ancient thought, it has, as civilization has ‘progressed’, slipped away from the collective consciousness and been replaced by more technical concerns with objectivities, control, prediction and outcomes. Recently, however, perhaps in the wake of repeated warnings about the limits of experts and their expertise, coupled to our continuing experience of social, economic and environmental uncertainties and upheavals (Beck, 2009: 6–10), wisdom has begun to enjoy a revival as a subject of scholarly concern, at least in management and organization studies. Cummings (1996) talks of a need to return to ancient forms of knowledge; Dreyfus and Dreyfus (2005) attempt to show how real expertise is far from a dry, technical science; Eikeland (2008) and Flyvbjerg (2001) call for practical wisdom to percolate throughout research practice; Rooney and McKenna (2007) find in wisdom the potential for a more open and balanced form of leadership; Weick (2004) and Weick and Putnam (2006) bring a notion of ‘mindful attentiveness’ to bear upon otherwise brittle and unreactive management systems; Kessler and Bailey (2007) are adamant that is through wisdom rather than knowledge that ethics can become a governing concern of corporate life; Chia and Holt (2007) argue that it is that the pursuit of wisdom as a form of ‘learned ignorance’ that can often times indirectly lead to performative excellence in the world of practical affairs; and finally, Nonaka (Nonaka et al., 2008; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 2011; Nonaka and Toyama, 2007) finds in wisdom a way of showing what is good, collectively, about an organization and its productive powers and argues persuasively why it is that wise leaders are able to do what is good for their companies and for society by understanding the higher moral purpose of what they do while remaining grounded in everyday detail. A 2013 issue of Academy of Management Learning and Education has also been dedicated to how wisdom might be inculcated or learnt, notably as a subject of pedagogy. There is, then, emerging interest in wisdom, a sense of its being somehow timely.

Many of these studies have drawn from the works of Aristotle and, like Aristotle, associated wisdom with phronesis (Aristotle (1984) ‘Nicomachean ethics’ (hereafter NE), 1142a25, 1143b8), the kind of prudential judgement by which equivocal circumstances are negotiated with both individual and collective good in mind…

Read the article: Nonaka, I., Chia, R., Holt, R., & Peltokorpi, V. (2014). Wisdom, management and organization. Management Learning, 45 (4), 365-376.



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