In the early days of the internet, I had a chance to read one of the early translations of The Japan That Can Say No. The point I took away was the critique of short-term decision making driven by the need for shareholder returns. I was pondering this the other day, as I wondered how organizations can look to make longer-term investments. And it led me to ponder the question of what the return is on wisdom.
So, the book was a sensation. At the time, the rumor was that it was written by two top Japanese. It wasn’t released in English, but instead was illicitly translated because of the scandalous claims. Still, I thought the assessment of the problems with derivative financing and efficiency approaches were apt. Are these approaches wise?
I use the term wisdom because I think we can, and need to, go beyond ‘smart’. I was pursuing my own quest to transcend what I do, and came upon a nice view of wisdom from Sternberg. This one argues that we should make decisions with both short- and long-term views, for not just us and ours, but for all people, with an explicit consideration of the value that we are following. Ok, so I’m a native Californian, but I don’t see a problem with this view. Smart is ‘in the moment’, wise is looking at the bigger picture.
I ponder this in the context of organizations continually looking to reduce costs through expediency. As an alternative, they could be looking at longer term approaches that help them get their workforce more intrinsically engaged. Does outsourcing and layoffs end up being more costly than investing in better leadership and culture?
There are some answers. Laurie Bassie’s research found that there was a correlation between high scores on handling people and business results. Similarly, Towards Maturity finds that companies with good L&D practices are more likely to be successful. It’s not surprising. When you provide meaningful work with enablement to succeed, you’re aligning the elements to succeed. It’s a path to a coherent organization. And, like with light, it’s more powerful.
There are arguments to move in wise directions. It may be hard if you’re driven by the need to produce short-term returns. Still, it’s the wise thing to do.
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