Does Knowledge Have Any
Dr. Bruce Lloyd is Professor of Strategic Management at London South Bank University.
By Bruce Lloyd
Over recent years there has been a vast amount
of literature on the critical subject of knowledge management, but the word ‘wisdom’ is
There is also an increasing list of books cataloguing
quotations of various kinds but these are rarely linked with the words ‘knowledge management.’
is wisdom? It is useful to attempt to establish a precise definition but, in parallel, we need to explore how the word is used in practice. In essence, wisdom is knowledge with a long (if not timeless) shelf-life, while data is
knowledge with an even shorter shelf-life than information.
It is, perhaps, even more important to turn the above pyramid on its head.
Wisdom then becomes the framework within which we manage knowledge, and so
on through the pyramid, ending with information being the framework within
which we manage data. This is the basic case for wisdom being at the apex of
It is, of course, important to recognize that wisdom is one thing, being wise
is another. Being wise is certainly a good deal more than just having the ability
to recycle wisdom. A wise person has the ability, convincingly, to apply wisdom
If we explore some of the ways in which the word wisdom
is used, this can provide additional insights. Do we agree with the comment
of Count Oxenstierna
(Swedish statesman, 1648), who said: “Dost thou not know, my son, with
how little wisdom the world is governed?” A cause for pessimism or optimism?
Then Proverbs in The Bible states: “Wisdom is
the principle thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding.”
Certainly there is probably much justification for: “Knowledge is a
process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.” Martin
And: “To know how to grow old is the masterwork of wisdom, and one of
the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” Henri Frederic
Some of the general quotations that have passed the test of time and so become
elevated to what might be considered as wisdom, include:
Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of
the cancer cell – Edward
It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them – Alfred
Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use
of strength – Henry
Make ye the world a bit better or more beautiful because
ye have lived in it – Francis Bacon
There is no limit to the good
a person can do if they don’t care who
gets the credit – Judson B. Branch
You must be the change
you want to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi
It is increasingly recognized that values and meaning are at the core of successful
companies and these drivers are strongly influenced by and reflected in our
acceptance of wisdom-driven beliefs.
In turn these factors influence our motivations and behaviors, which then
provide the basis for the energy that ultimately determines the nature and
intensity of our action.
If we can agree on what we mean by wisdom we can then ask: “How do we
ensure that these ‘wisdom’ messages are learned more effectively?”
In that context, we need to explore the apparent paradox: “Why do we
appear to be spending more and more time focused on learning knowledge that
has a short shelf life, and less and less time on knowledge that overlaps with
long shelf-life wisdom?”
Any effective knowledge management strategy both starts and ends with a solid
foundation in wisdom. There is no better time than the beginning of a new millennium
for us all to reflect on what we mean by wisdom and how this critical element
in long-term corporate success can be passed on more effectively.
“Does Knowledge Have Any Value Without Wisdom?” was
first published in Professional Manager Magazine.
Lloyd is Professor of Strategic Management at London South Bank University,
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.