I was recently asked to read the pages of Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe's book, Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing that are available free on Amazon via the site's Look Inside function
Right from the start, then, I was a bit skeptical of the entire premise of the reading - that society has somehow disassociated wisdom from practicality.
Schwartz redeemed himself, slightly, however in communicating a slightly different approach in the next few pages - the idea that practical wisdom is the skills of managing the choices between bad and worse, or good and better, or better and best. This idea aligned well with some insight that I’d received from a trusted leader sometime back. “Wyatt,” he said, “as a leader, the choices between good and bad, or right and wrong, are easy - they aren’t choices. You simply always choose the good or the right. The challenge in leading comes from making the decisions between two goods, when only one can be chosen.” It is this idea of making the choice between good and better, or better and best, which requires a particular skill - and some instinct, to do well, I think. To this effect, Schwartz states, “...practical wisdom combines will with skill.”
In the pages of chapter two that are available for us to read, Schwartz provides a couple of examples of what he’d call ‘practical wisdom’. In each of the three scenarios, though, I see the common thread as these being individuals who had ‘compassion’ and ‘empathy’ to the point that they were willing to either go above-and-beyond their job description, or put their own being in a difficult position such that another person might benefit. Compassion and empathy, unfortunately, seem to be increasingly on the decline.
And as a result, so too is practical wisdom.