Monday, 19 December 2011

TEDCEMBER: Using Our Practical Wisdom

Barry Schwartz's TED talk on practical wisdom didn't throw up anything new, but it's nice to know that other people share my views on target driven behaviour. He also argued the case more clearly than I typically do, so that's at least something I can learn from. Barry starts his talk by expressing that there is a high degree of collective dissatisfaction with how our institutions are run. He's not wrong. If it's not the bankers, it's the politicians, or the police or the press. And don't get me started on the education system or health service.

Depressingly the typical response to these kinds of revelations are more of the very things that cause them in the first place. More rules, more incentives, more targets. The problem with RI&T is that they demotivate, demoralise and distract the skilled professionals who would otherwise be doing a good job, while preventing the incompetent and inadequate from early identification and intervention.

Barry argues that the solution to these problems is the opposite. We need systems that encourage people to demonstrate practical wisdom (the skill and desire to do the right thing) and since this is not how the majority of our institutions are currently organised, we need systems changers and systems thinkers in order to create them. I wholeheartedly agree.

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