Developing Strategic Capability and Practical Wisdom (Part 2)


Practical wisdom is the “ability to take the right actions at the right time and for the right reasons.”

To adequately deal with situations that involve human interaction, character is needed.  Aristotle called the character traits that deals most effectively with this interaction practical wisdom.

People with practical wisdom have “the moral will to do the right thing and the moral skill to figure out what the right thing is in any particular situation”.

A good example of how wisdom is obtained is the Wisdom or DIKW Heirarchy.  It best illustrates the evolution of data to wisdom or , ‘knowing just’ to ‘just knowing’.

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The first level in developing practical wisdom is knowing all the data (facts). These alone have no  meaning until you give them a context in which you connect the facts and create information.

Information then turns into knowledge when you provide a structured framework to this information through experience, learning and understanding.

This knowledge turns into wisdom when the principles of past experience and knowledge are used to do the right thing.

You will notice that data and information are past tense while wisdom is the future, but you need these steps to build on each other to evolve to wisdom.

Wisdom comes from experience which cannot be obtained in a vacuum.  We need alternate perceptions and realities through relationships, dialogue and interactions to blend collective knowledge into wisdom.

So, practical wisdom culminates when you consider future states with possible implications and can anticipate problems and create scenarios that deal with these implications.

Once again, this refers back to the power of gaining multiple perspectives to broaden our awarenesses.

References and Resources

UCT GSB EMBA Programme

Practical wisdom and organizations” Barry Schwartz

“Making work systems better” Luc Hoebeke

“The Attitude of Wisdom: Ambivalence as the Optimal Compromise” by Karl Weick




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