Business Perspectives

Ray Hull: The art of wisdom in professional life

When we think of those who possess wisdom, we generally refer to those who have demonstrated what we think of as that quality, those who have influenced us from childhood — our parents who strived to give us wise instruction for our life, our pastor at church, one or more of our teachers, one of our bosses. For better or worse, those and others certainly may have influenced us in our life. But did they demonstrate what is called true wisdom?

We hear proverbs and maxims regarding wisdom, but what is it? How can we develop true wisdom in our professional life, wisdom that will influence others for their betterment, for the betterment of our place of employment, for the betterment of our own leadership capabilities?

What is wisdom? How is it demonstrated?

Here are a few definitions of wisdom paraphrased from Imrich Ruisel (2008) that we can use in our daily professional lives:

1. Wisdom addresses difficult questions, going beyond everyday knowledge, beyond quick answers and ready-made solutions;

2. Wisdom represents a superior level of knowledge, judgment and advice resulting from experience and insight. However, experience alone does not assure wisdom;

3. Wisdom involves a synchrony of mind and character with knowledge and virtue;

4. Wisdom represents a carefully orchestrated combination of knowledge and experience that is used for the well-being of oneself as well as the well-being of others;

5. Wisdom, though difficult to pin down and define, can be recognized when it is revealed in constructive and doable solutions to difficult problems;

6. Most of all, wisdom protects us from quick answers to otherwise difficult problems. Wisdom looks at all sides of a problem and recognizes the potential impact of short- and long-term solutions and the consequences of those solutions.

In other words, those who exhibit wisdom view problems by mentally viewing the “whole” of a situation, not just the problem per se, but how it came about and its history. From those, the person demonstrating wisdom will reach possible constructive solutions. Wisdom, then, results in solutions to problems that are thoughtful, not quick, reactive, or from the hip.

In the workplace, it is best to remember that a person with wisdom does not necessarily simply possess a great deal of experience. Wisdom comes as a result of how one’s experience is used in the decision making process.

It is best to remember that people who demonstrate wisdom are generally optimistic in their outlook regarding finding solutions to difficult problems. They demonstrate an atmosphere of calm when they face difficult decisions. They are able to look at problems from several different directions, from various constructive angles. They know full well that there is a solution, and they find it. In the meantime, those who are depending on a workable solution can remain calm because they know that the solution to the problem will be considerate and doable.

In the end, wisdom, if applied to our everyday duties of our profession and used constructively, can result in positive advancements in our business, our relationship with employers, and advancement of our position within the organization where we are employed.

Ray H. Hull is a professor of communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University. His new book with Jim Stovall is "The Art of Learning and Self-Development: Your Competitive Edge."

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