Sunday, June 03, 2007

Knowledge and Wisdom

Annie and I heard a fascinating talk today and part of it was about the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

It got me thinking about the number of people I met in my NHS career who have many qualifications and numerous letters after their name.

Their knowledge is undeniable … It often surprises me that their wisdom does not always match up.

I would be fascinated to hear reader’s views about this knowledge/wisdom balance.

Any views?


Terry Starbucker said...

Hi Trevor - thanks for stopping by my place today. I am quite well and I hope you and your bride are enjoying life to the fullest. I too have met many well "qualified" people that just didn't seem to have the wisdom to make goosd business decisions. I also agree that my post on "experts" takes a very similar tack. Yes, there is a difference! All the best.

Trevor Gay said...

Many thanks for that Terry. Annie and I are fine and thanks for asking

This knowledge/wisdom thing fascinates me. I think there is room for lots of people at the ‘table of effectiveness’ in leadership and management and it take all sorts as the saying goes.

The one thing I am absolutely sure about is that qualifications mean nothing in terms of ability to motivate others. Some of the people who have motivated me in my life have no qualifications whatsoever. Many people I have known who have loads of qualifications leave me cold.

Anonymous said...

Hi Trevor

A while ago I read an essay by Chris Argyris called 'Teaching Smart People How To Learn' He had done some studies suggesting that , in organisations, those with the most power, status, qualifications, and knowledge were the least likely to be able to learn at a deep level because their need to be 'experts' prevented them from opening themselves out to new ideas and fresh approaches. A warning to anyone who thinks they've made it!
Maybe wisdom is partly to do with an ability to clear ouit the'baggage' of expertise.

The other thought that popped into my head when I read your piece, Trevor, was that in the New Testament,the Pharisees were very knowledgable about Scripture and Law, but in the wisdom stakes, Jesus showed them up.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi tomjam – hope you are keeping well - brilliant comments as always!

I agree with Charles Argyris conclusions. Maybe I will try to get hold of that essay.

Many years ago in my NHS career a group of us were doing some really interesting community development work that involved consulting families living in real poverty and poor housing in an extremely deprived area of an inner city. Our Chief Executive visited our office and asked us … ‘How on earth do you manage to communicate with those people?’ We replied … ‘It’s easy – we just talk to them and we listen’

He was asking a genuine question from his perception because he simply could not see how it is possible to communicate with people and families in such circumstances. This man is highly intelligent, very well respected and far more qualified than me and all my colleagues in that project and yet he just could not relate to ordinary people.

I love the reference to Jesus and of course – as always - He is our best role model for wisdom.

Anonymous said...

I have always believed that there is a difference between being clever and being intelligent – I guess the equivalent of knowledge and wisdom. I have come across very clever people who are also very intelligent, down to earth and practical. Equally some that I have encountered have failed to impress and one or two have been so clever that I couldn’t understand what they were talking about!

It is interesting to note that many of today’s successful business people have little in the way of qualifications – Duncan Bannatyne, Alan Sugar and Richard Branson to name but three that immediately spring to mind. And of course, not too long back we had a prime minister who similarly lacked academic achievement.

Maybe a dozen years back I interviewed a couple of guys who were already working within the company. The first kept banging on about his academic qualifications but seemed to have little personality. The second, equally well qualified didn’t mention them. But his enthusiasm for the role we were offering shone through, and he effectively clinched the job when asked why he had joined the company when he left university. He smiled and enquired whether we wanted the ‘official’ response or the real reason. We settled for the latter. With a laugh he told us that no one else had offered him a job. We just loved this honesty. I am pleased to say that over the years his career has flourished.

Trevor Gay said...

And of course David I believe the most talented manager in Britain is Sir Alex Ferguson who has no ‘qualifications’ in management. But just look at his results for the last 20 years in football management at Manchester United and (often overlooked) his record before that for 10 years in Scotland.

Your story is great and it reminded me of the time we appointed a person in the NHS who on paper was the least ‘qualified’ of the 3 applicants we interviewed. He got the job because when we asked him about the gaps in his technical knowledge he replied ‘I don’t know but I will find out by lunchtime’

We loved his passion and gave him the job – we never regretted it.

Dr Xavier Ray said...

Knowledge can be learnt and remembered but wisdom needs experience and an open mind. Regretably the training for medicine, for most people, requires a prolonged period of sacrifice and separation from real world learning experiences. And I am not just talking about 5 years in medical school. My self imposed secludion and study started in my early teens and continued until my late 30s. Is it any wonder that many medics lack people skills and emotional intelligence. This is incorrectly interpreted as arrogance, aggression or uncareing behaviour.
Now in my 50s I realise that saying "Hi, my name is ...... Have a nice day" is more important when dealing with patients than any deep medical knowledge or technical skills.

Trevor Gay said...

Dr Ray

Thanks for your realistic and honest comments. I spent time in my NHS management career working with hundreds of doctors and I found all of them to be great colleagues. I’ve ALWAYS felt that doctors have their patients best interests at heart.

Doctors are the 'best and brightest' graduates academically and it has always mildly surprised me that they under-estimate the ‘softer’ skills such as communication you talk of.

Most patients have great faith in their doctor and you guys have a huge role in the life of ordinary people. You are ‘put up on a pedestal’ by most patients.

It is great to see you acknowledging how important the ‘softer ‘skills actually are in reality.

There is plenty of evidence that doctors who care for patients with kindness do not get sued whereas the technically brilliant doctors who have no concept of ‘good bedside manners’ tend to get sued.

There is something very simple about all this don’t you think?

Thank you Dr Ray - I hope you visit Simplicity Blog again.