Seeing what’s on the horizon at the moment is difficult, as mists of uncertainty swirl around us, combining to restrict our vision, and we find there are no longer any easy “solutions” to recovering it.
Not that long ago, pre-pandemic, there was an enormous supply of people who provided us with easy-to-use answers, templates and formulas – often government-funded and given catch names like ‘Growth Accelerator.” They provided psychological support to the decisions that would usually have been made anyway and gave them a veneer of professional respectability. They did no harm, sometimes helped a little, but did not change things for the long term, even as the mist was forming, even then.
Today, the consultants are as confused as the clients. Those stock answers no longer help, even a little and are more likely to harm if we turn to them hoping they will, like some form of magic incantation.
We are in a different place. We need to make space for wisdom.
Wisdom is one of those comfortable ideas, all rocking chairs and warm fires that we shape to pretend it is not as challenging as it is. Our dictionaries collude, defining it as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement.”
The reality is that wisdom is where we go when the science runs out, and as a society that has become addicted to science as truth, the idea is very challenging. Science implies understanding, and understanding means control, and right now, all of that is in very short supply. Wisdom invokes other, less tangible knowledge garnered over generations; Intuition, experience, spirituality, survival and other areas which do not lend themselves to evidence-based debate.
As I write this, authorities of every sort are flying in the face of wisdom to water down the recommendations of the IPCC regarding the measures we take – fossil fuel? – a jolly good thing; industrial farming? – no problem. The list goes on, driven by a tenuous hold on power rather than increasing our chances of long term survival. Here in the UK, a government dedicated to the supremacy of money as the meaning of life refutes the wisdom of a “plan B” to mitigate pressures on a health service recommended by scientists. The NHS is, after all, only a consumer of money, not a generator. Science can be real nuisance sometimes.
Wisdom is a function of leadership, whilst science is the stuff of management. Both are vital but very different. Wisdom accommodates science, but the rigours of science exclude wisdom, and the result appears to be that we have managers trying to be leaders and failing.
We might want to think about that.