Wise Are You Grasshopper?
I used to do a lot of business in Japan. The clichés are true. The most important guy in the room is the guy at the back who says nothing. But is he wise? Don’t know. He’s certainly the oldest. That’s the way it often works in Japan.
In the West it’s different. The most important person in the room usually takes great pains to be seen as such – taking the lead, doing the summarising, conspicuous delegating, and being in charge. But is she wise? Don’t know. Mibby aye mibby no as Kenny Dalgleish would say.
What is wisdom?
Well our old friends the psychologists have tried to define wisdom.
It comes in five parts:
1. Resolve Conflict You Must
The wise have a willingness to seek opportunities to resolve conflict. This is proactive. This is leadership.
Many people would not seek the opportunity to resolve conflict. They would prefer to remain in their comforting passive aggressive bubble. They would delude themselves that because they are not fighting right now, then they are not in conflict. But they are – they’re just in a lull between outbreaks of fighting. This can be at any level – nation vs nation right through to you vs the dope in accounts.
2. Compromise You Will.
The wise have a willingness to search for compromise
Compromise is a loaded word. It somehow seems soft and fluffy. Not as good as a total victory.
We are conditioned to see things as win-lose. One side wins, the other loses. Intellectually we look for win-wins but I think we’re hard wired for win-lose. Our modern limbic brain and our neocortex might abstractly consider win-win, but our original, ancient reptile brain wants to club you to death.
3. Know Everything You Don’t
The wise recognise the limits of personal knowledge.
I mean in themselves.
A lot of people want to be seen to be the font of all knowledge. The Oracle. Especially in an organisation where knowledge is valued highly as it often is in the West. This leads to the individual with the knowledge being highly regarded. But it is an ability to get to the knowledge that is important, not being the possessor of the knowledge. This is overlooked.
The wise person looks for the knowledge wherever it is. They don’t just look inside themselves.
4. Different Viewpoints There Are.
The wise are aware that more than one perspective on a problem can exist.
And it’s not about right and wrong, followed by a battle to see who wins. Both sides can be right. Yet the problem between them still exists. I am reminded of the view in Ury’s “Getting To Yes” – a book about negotiation. He says “be hard on the problem, soft on the people.” Wise indeed.
5. Get Worse Things Will
The wise appreciate the fact that things may get worse before they get better. They know they may have a bit of a storm to weather before the sun comes out. This is not indicative of failure. It’s just the way things often are. If we could make the sun come out with a click of the finger we’d have done it already.
So, the next time you are considering invading an annoying country, and there are so many to choose from, or you are considering lobbing another grenade into the debate with accounts, or your partner, or the hapless call centre worker, stop for a second and consider the five points above.
Act with them in mind and you will be wise grasshopper.