Developing Organisational Wisdom – how do developers respond?

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Jane Gaukroger, Managing Director of The Change Able Project

- To explore what we mean by organisational wisdom.
- To explore whether this is the ‘highest order’ priority for the organisational developer.
- To consider the implications for our own development as practitioners.

Published in: Education, Spiritual, Technology
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Developing Organisational Wisdom – how do developers respond?

  1. 1. Developing organisationalwisdom – how do developersrespond?SDF Spring Conference 18 April 2013Jane Gaukroger
  2. 2. 2Organisational wisdom – focus ofthis session• How do we define it?• Why is it important to us?• What might if mean for our development practice?• What does it mean for me as an individualdeveloper?… the contribution ofthe OD practitioner toorganisational wisdom
  3. 3. Context for this research• A personal search after a career spent in peoplemanagement and development• A concern about some of what is happening inour organisations – questions of ethics, integrityand behaviour• Howard Gardner (2011) and The Good WorkProject‘Good work is good in the excellent, technical sense; the worker knows his stuff,is highly skilled, and keeps up with the latest knowledge and techniques.Good work is good in the phenomenal sense; it feels good, feels right, ispersonally engaging, yields experience of flow. Finally, good work is good ina moral sense; it is carried out ethically, in a way that is responsible, and in away that serves the wider good, even (indeed perhaps especially) when itgoes against the immediate interests of the worker’.3
  4. 4. 4Banks role in financial crisisTop payMPs expensesMedia/phone hackingNHS care
  5. 5. What are all of these issuessaying …• Are we missing something in our organisations?• Is it a quality which cannot be achieved simplythrough rules, regulations, legislation?• Is it wisdom?5
  6. 6. What responsibility have we hadas developers?• Have we played a role in setting these cultures?• Have we been paying enough attention to whatreally matters (what do we think really matters?)• Or have we been trying our hardest – but lackinginfluence?• We can do better than this!6
  7. 7. HEIs – positive association withwisdom7
  8. 8. Wisdom challenges in HE?• Commercialisation• Shifting academic role• Maintaining quality in new markets• Continuing investment in non-vocational, applied,scientific disciplines• Academic freedom…‘The more managerial neo-liberal institutional cultures of thelast decade require a corporate perspective, with lessscope for individual (or institutional autonomy)’ LindaHolbeche 2012 Changing times in UK universites – what difference can HR make?8
  9. 9. DEFINING WISDOM9
  10. 10. What words do you associatewith wisdom?10In general?
  11. 11. Definitions of wisdom – dictionaryCapacity of judging rightly in matters relating tolife and conduct; soundness of judgement in thechoice of means and ends; sometimes, lessstrictly, sound sense, especially in practicalaffairs: opposed to folly(OED, Second Edition Volume XX, 1989, pp.421)11
  12. 12. Classical philosophers on wisdomPhilosophy – From Greek meaning love of (philos) andwisdom (sophia)•Socrates: The reflective life‘The unexamined life is not worth living’•Plato: Ideas/TruthExploration of the true causes of all things•Aristotle: PhronesisCapacity to act with regard to human good12
  13. 13. Psychologists on wisdomCsikszentmihalyi and Rathunde (1990)•Wisdom as a cognitive process – understandingthe workings of the world•Wisdom as a virtue – understanding how to orderour actions to achieve harmony with the world•Wisdom as a personal good – an intrinsicallyrewarding experience that makes us feel happy13
  14. 14. Psychologists on wisdomBaltes and Smith (1990) ‘Berlin Paradigm’‘Good judgement and advice about important butuncertain matters of life’5 crtieria:•Rich factual knowledge about matters of life•Rich procedural knowledge – strategies forjudgement and advice•Life span contextualisation•Relativism•Uncertainty14
  15. 15. DEFINING ORGANISATIONALWISDOM AND HOW WE MIGHTAPPLY THIS15
  16. 16. Definitions of organisationalwisdomSurprisingly few!16
  17. 17. Business thinkers on wisdom –learning perspective17Zeleny 1987,Ackoff 1987Not muchattention thewisdom level –just too difficult?
  18. 18. Business thinkers on wisdom –leadership perspective18Courtney 2001Sees managerial wisdom as integrating knowledgewith moral concerns• ‘Knowledge involves the ability to act intelligentlyand to learn. Wisdom guides knowledgeableactions on the basis of moral and ethical values’
  19. 19. Business thinkers on wisdom –action perspective19Jennifer Rowley (2006)‘The capacity to put into action the most appropriatebehaviour for an organisation, taking into accountwhat is known and the legitimate concerns of itsvarious stakeholders’
  20. 20. Activity 2•Would it be useful to have a clearer focus onorganisational wisdom?•What might this mean for what we pay attention toin our development work?20
  21. 21. WHAT MIGHT THIS MEAN FORMY DEVELOPMENT AS ADEVELOPER?21
  22. 22. Wisdom developmentBigelow (1992)Proposes a model to include development of:• Practical knowledge• The metacognitive (knowing about knowing)process associated with management ofknowledge and its limitations, uncertainties andcontradictions• Metacognitive processes associated with seeingand learning from experience• Image of self as part of a larger system22
  23. 23. Meacham (1983)‘The more one knows the more oneknows one doesn’t know’23
  24. 24. Reflections on business educationafter the financial crisisCurrie, Knights and Starkey (2008)‘ Every cloud has a silver lining. There could be nomore opportune time to reflect critically onbusiness schools and the education they (we)profess to provide…it is beholden on us to reflectmore deeply and critically on the purpose ofbusiness school education’.24
  25. 25. Activity 3•What would more attention to organisation wisdommean for our own professional development – depthof our learning on ethics? philosophy? psychology?•And what about our own reflective practice?25
  26. 26. If you are interested in being part of aresearch study with OD practitioners nextyear please get in touch!26

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