The getting of wisdom

| November 19, 2020

As I get older, the world seems smaller, more complicated, but smaller. This is not just the technology we all now have that has shrunk all the boundaries of our world over the last 20 years, putting the all the  information anyone has ever had at our fingertips, that is different.

It is one thing to have all  the information, it is quite another to be able to make sense of it.

There has been a progression from data to information, to knowledge that has been recognised and widely leveraged, but now there is another level to the cake, wisdom.

We all have access to the same information, can find those who have the knowledge to use it, but it is wisdom, born of experience and breadth of thinking that delivers the wisdom now so rare, but so sorely needed.

I like very much the philosophy of Charlie Munger who talks about mental models, ways of assembling knowledge and sifting through it, reorganising it to be seen from different perspectives that offer a different view. The more mental models you can bring to bear on a topic and body of knowledge, the greater the chance that there will be some insight that emerges unexpected from the model.

Charlie speaks of his mental models, and their source often, a man of few words, leaving most of them to his mate of 50 years Warren Buffet. However, in 1994 he wrote what has become a staple of business thinking , his ‘Worldly wisdom’ speech.

As a kid, we learnt stuff by experience, and using mnemonics,  devices to assist us to remember things. Rhymes, associations, colours can all play a role. Wisdom seems to me to be the opposite end of the mnemonic, the ability to see connections between seemingly unconnected pieces of information, and it is our mental models that enable these connections to be made.

By contrast what we have often these days are unrelated facts presented as a cause and effect, or a set of actions that worked in one place being expected to work in another, which may seem similar, but at a deeper level are not sufficiency similar to enable the actions to deliver the same outcomes.

We tend to be a society that believes, or wants to believe  in miracles, perhaps cargo cults, because it is easier than doing the hard thinking yards.

As someone who gives advice for a living, it is incumbent on me to have a clear framework from which to distil the information to have into advice that is tailored to the needs of those being advised. As often as not, the advice is not heeded, or taken in parts which sometimes hurts, as it reflects poorly on the end result, but it is the reality of making real change.

To be able to deliver the unwelcome news with confidence that it will hold, I need to have a range of mental models, models that come from the work done over 45 years in marketing, sales, operations, leadership, logistics and accounting, and be able to filter the information in front of me through the range of models in a routine and organised manner. Each model gives a slightly different interpretation of the facts, a different slant that requires consideration, so that each outcome is slightly different to the past, but best fitted to the situation to hand.

When you need a bit of wisdom, give me a call, perhaps I can help.

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