Wisdom is …

ROWLEY, J. and SLACK, F., 2009. Conceptions of wisdom. Journal of Information Science, 35(1), pp. 110-119

This paper presents exploratory research around the topic of wisdom, exploring how it has been defined in the literature – both eastern and western – and what it means to postgraduates of information and library studies and information technology.

In their literature review, Rowley and Slack give a range of conceptions of wisdom, some more dependant than others on having knowledge as a foundation, with most seeing a role for action, judgement and foresight. Wisdom in organisations is also discussed, with the interesting idea of “Kairos time” being mentioned, or the ability to take the right action at the critical moment. Organisational strategy and wisdom is further linked with CSR, in that wise decision making today is made more complex by the ethical and social considerations of a globalized and networked world.

In a simple exploratory research design, the authors asked postgraduates to complete the sentence “wisdom is..”, then undertook content analysis on the responses to draw out key elements of the concept as understood by that population. Many – but interestingly far from all – conceptions included knowledge or knowing, experience and a sense of action or application.

At first I found it difficult to see the value of this work beyond the core concept analysis, which though interesting in its own right, didn’t seem all that useful. But I think it is in the relation to organisational learning that this work can be interestingly extended, through the characterisation of “wise” decision making and perhaps though contrasting the conceptions given here here to newer models such as crowd wisdom on the social web.

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