Wisdom in business and management

Center for Practical Wisdom

Conducting business hinges on being able to make sound, smart decisions for moving a company forward. Does that mean business needs to be steeped in wise decision making and management practices? Ali Intezari and David Pauleen's book, Wisdom, Analytics and Wicked Problems: Integral Decision Making for the Data Age addresses the challenges that businesses face in the balancing act of stakeholder interest, profits, investment, innovation, and community flourishing. Their book provides a practical framework for wisdom-based decision making. Intezari and Pauleen state:

"Wisdom has never really been part of management discourse. Management has always been about creating efficient companies and making money for a select group of stakeholders. We believe greater stakes exist. By integrating wisdom into decision making practices, we suggest management can achieve benefits that include the long term interests of managers and organizations as well the community (including future generations and the earth) within which the organizations exist and operate."

The co-authors have been working jointly on the topic for the past 10 years. As Pauleen's doctoral student, Intezari developed studies on these concepts and together they broadened the research which has culminated in the newly published book. They intend for Wisdom, Analytics and Wicked Problems to be a practical resource for public and private sector professionals, practitioners and consultants, as well as students studying management. This book presents comprehensive background and practical decision-making and strategy formulations for anyone encountering wicked decision situations or making consequential decisions. They also posit a new theoretical foundation for further development by organizational, management, leadership, wisdom researchers and other scholars:

"Perhaps most interesting is that we make the case that a career in management through the practice of wise decision making can be a form of self-cultivation and a path to wisdom itself - as well as providing a living."

In their book, published in November by Routledge, they define wisdom as a capacity for decision making in complex situations. The authors introduce a model that identifies the specific qualities and processes involved in making wise decisions through an integrated implementation of 4 principles:

i. Multi-Perspective Consideration (MPC),

ii. Cognitive-Emotional Mastery (CEM),

iii. Self-Other Awareness (SOA), and

iv. Internal-External Reflection (IER).

Descriptions of these principles from the book:

Table 8.1: Wisdom Principles Description (page 177)

Wisdom Principles


Multi-Perspective Consideration (MPC)

The extent to which the decision short- and long-term outcomes and ramifications are analysed, alternative points of view are represented as well as individual and communal interests and values are reconciled, and ethical codes are considered.


Includes the following wisdom aspects:

-      Future Thinking

-      Perspective Taking (Considering alternative points of view)

-      Ethical Consideration

Cognitive-Emotional Mastery (CEM)

The extent to which the decision maker’s cognitive abilities and emotional qualities are integrated throughout the decision-making process.


Includes the following wisdom aspects:

-      Cognitive Mastery

-      Emotional Mastery


Self-Other Awareness (SOA)

The extent to which the decision maker’s self-awareness (awareness of the internal world) is integrated with his/her Other-awareness (awareness of others, and the external world).


Includes the following wisdom aspects:

-      Self-Awareness

-      Other-Awareness


Internal-External Reflection (IER)

A detailed consideration and critical (re-)evaluation of the decision-related facts and assumptions in order to gain a better understanding of the decision situation and how to address the decision problem.


Includes the following wisdom aspects:

-     Internal Reflection

-     External Reflection


Their argument and stance: Wisdom can be learned!

Intezari and Pauleen were able to provide the Center for Practical Wisdom with a few guidelines for using practical wisdom in management.

a. Data, information, knowledge and experience tend to be past-oriented and may not always be useful in dealing with emergent, here-to-fore unseen situations.

b. A key aspect of wisdom is in knowing what data and information to use and how and when to use it. It is also being aware that one's knowledge may be insufficient for the situation at hand.

c. Practical wisdom is also about being aware that decisions can affect multiple stakeholders, near and far, and in the present and future and that poor decisions can have significant negative consequences.

d. By applying the four wisdom principles, a decision maker can over time learn to make the right decision, at the right time for the right reasons.

e. Decisions made, based on the four wisdom principles, become a form of daily practice, with the decision maker's MPC, CEM, SOA, and IER continuously evolving over time to become an embodied habitus, resulting, the authors suggest, in the development of the decision maker's own innate wisdom

A few takeaways from the book:

Intezari and Pauleen affirm that wisdom is a decision-making capacity which can be developed through practice. The conscientious practice of wise management decision making is itself a path to becoming wiser. As with most types of practice, by regularly and consistently incorporating the wisdom principles into the decision-making process, they become ingrained and embodied. Even more, they can become a form of habitus, understood as a largely unconscious psychological-cultural system of dispositions, values, skills, and behaviours. In the end, if our businesses and management systems form wisdom habitus, then the perspective taking, empathy, and reflection which wisdom requires may very well reach the individual, community, and society as a whole.

About the authors:

Dr. Ali Intezari (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Management, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand. His current research interests include Organizational Wisdom theory, Organizational Knowledge Culture, Decision-making, and Knowledge Management. His research studies are published in the top international journals such as Decision Sciences, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Knowledge Management, Communications of the Association for Information Systems, and Journal of Management Inquiry. His body of work has attracted considerable scholarly attention. The body of work has also attracted attention from external stakeholders. This is evidenced in the publication (by invitation) for business magazines. Dr. Intezari is also the co-editor of two other books on the practical wisdom theory, Practical Wisdom in the Age of Technology: Insights, Issues and Questions for a New Millennium (2017); and Practical Wisdom and Leadership in a Poly-cultural World: Asian, Indigenous and Middle-Eastern Perspectives (forthcoming 2019).

David J. Pauleen (PhD) is a professor of technology management in the School of Management at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand. His current research speciality revolves around wisdom in management and in particular offering critical commentary on information system's research and practice. Continuing areas of research expertise include personal knowledge management, knowledge management, cross-cultural management, emerging work practices, virtual team leadership dynamics, communication and technology, and grounded theory method. His work has appeared in numerous journals including Journal of Business Ethics, Decision Sciences, Information Systems Journal, Sloan Management Review, Journal of Management Information Systems, and Journal of Information Technology. He is also editor of the books, Virtual Teams: Projects, Protocols and Processes (2004) and Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Knowledge Management (2007), and co-editor of Personal Knowledge Management: Individual, Organizational and Social Perspectives (2010) and Handbook of Practical Wisdom: Leadership, Organization and Integral Business Practice (2013). He is the co-editor of the Routledge Practical Wisdom in Leadership and Organization Series.

Buy the book: Intezari, A., & Pauleen, D. (2018). Wisdom, Analytics and Wicked Problems: Integral Decision Making for the Data Age. Routledge: London, England.

  • Ron Krumpos said:

    Common sense, let alone wisdom, is too often lacking when making business decisions. The best and wisest priorities should be:

    1. The customer/client

    2. The company

    3. The department

    4. The employees

    5. The decision maker

    Too often those priorities are reversed.

    December 26, 2018 12:59 PM
  • Wisdom???It’s a real thing but perhaps not what you thought! – Shelley Hourston said:

    Pingback from  Wisdom???It’s a real thing but perhaps not what you thought! – Shelley Hourston

    March 3, 2019 5:51 PM
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