Business wisdom can be developed, says first handbook to apply growing wisdom research to management
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Ancient ideas for modern business?
Business wisdom can be developed,
says first handbook to apply
growing wisdom research to management
Volume marks emergence of new field, hits # 3 in Amazon’s “hot new releases” among industrial and organizational books
Authors at Pace and George Washington University business schools propose aesthetics and epistemology as antidotes to “narrow” business education
New York, NY, March 10, 2008 – The elusive topic of wisdom is under increasing study by social scientists, according to a New York Times Magazine cover story last spring.
Now, that promising research is coming to the business world.
The first handbook linking wisdom studies to business has been published by Eric H. Kessler, PhD, a professor of management at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, and James R. Bailey, PhD, a professor at The George Washington University School of Business.
Their “Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom” (Sage Publications) is a 579-page compendium of original essays by globally renowned business thinkers. Kessler believes it is the first systematic attempt to apply recent insights to organizations and management decision making.
Handbooks typically bring together analysis and research that have reached a critical mass. Likewise, publication of this book heralds the emergence of a new field.
Critique of business schools and businesses. The authors acknowledge that at first glance the topic may seem familiar, and they quote sources as diverse as Sophocles and the humorist Will Rogers (“common sense ain’t common”). They candidly point out difficulties in defining wisdom, citing the paradox that nothing is “as simultaneously important and mysterious.”
However, in a 74-page introduction they say that wisdom now “builds on modern-day obsessions with data and knowledge-management.”
Moreover, they say wisdom is not exclusively innate or the fruit of experience, but can be actively encouraged. Their book provides guidelines for increasing it in people, teams, organizations, and strategies.
Unfortunately, they say, business schools are dominated by “narrowly-defined constructs and elaborate statistical manipulations,” so “academics are not normally trained in, nor do they train for, wisdom.”
As Kessler puts it, “We typically don’t teach business people to be wise. We teach them to absorb information and crunch numbers.” The same is true of how businesses typically are designed or managed.
Classics and technology. As an antidote, Kessler and Bailey recommend restructuring curriculums and training programs to incorporate modern versions of such classic disciplines as logic, ethics, aesthetics, epistemology and metaphysics. They and their contributors argue for education that develops wisdom-enhancing skills and attributes in “attitude,” “awareness,” “ability,” “application,” and “design.”
The handbook also explores what Kessler calls “interesting issues [that] emerge when one views organizations from a wisdom-based perspective.” Contributors ask questions like: Does technology promote or inhibit wisdom? How do HR systems, organizational forms, management practices, team dynamics, operational capabilities, and globalization strategies relate to wisdom? What are the ethical and social dimensions of wisdom? What makes a wise leader? Can wisdom be developed and utilized strategically? Do conceptions and manifestations of wisdom vary across cultures?
Praise from Harvard, USC, and Goldman Sachs. The book has attracted pre-publication praise from such distinguished business experts as Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School (“proves that deep thinking can inform and inspire practice”), Warren Bennis of the University of Southern California (“a most original and valuable addition to the management canon”) and Steve Kerr of Goldman Sachs (“a wise book”).
The volume also has climbed as high as #3 on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” in the Industrial/Organizational area, has been adopted for business courses in Australia and in the US, and has received early praise from institutions like the European Academy of Management.
About the editors. Eric H. Kessler is a senior Professor of Management in the Lubin School of Business at Pace University in New York City and founding Director of the Lubin Leaders and Scholars Program, an undergraduate honors program. He is a past President of the Eastern Academy of Management, the northeastern United States’ academic association of business management professors. He has served on several editorial boards and as the guest editor for a number of professional journals, as well as on review panels with the U.S. National Security Education Program. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, he has been inducted into national and international honor societies in Business, Economics, Forensics, and Psychology. He is widely published in leading academic journals and professional book series, has won numerous scholarly awards, and is the author or editor of books including the forthcoming “Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership” and “Applying Management Theory to Practice.”
James R. Bailey is Tucker Professor of Leadership and Director of Executive Education at The George Washington University School of Business, and a Fellow in the Centre for Management Development of the London Business School. He has been the recipient of many teaching distinctions, including the Professor of the Year from the BBA and EMBA programs at GW, and in 2006 was named one of the world’s top ten executive educators by the International Council for Executive Leadership Development. He has published over 50 academic papers and case studies, and is the author of books including the recent “International Encyclopedia of Organization Studies.” He has designed and delivered hundreds of executive programs for firms like Nestle, United Bank of Switzerland, Morgan Stanley and Lucent Technologies.
The Lubin School of Business at Pace University is accredited for both business and accounting by AACSB International, an elite distinction shared by fewer than 3% of business schools worldwide. With a tradition of practice-oriented curricula, the School has achieved national recognition for both its graduate and undergraduate programs in U.S .News & World Report and other media. Approximately 4,000 students are enrolled in Lubin’s undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs in Downtown and Midtown New York City, and Pleasantville and White Plains in Westchester County. Prominent alumni include Melvin Karmazin, CEO, Sirius Satellite Radio; James Quinn, president, Tiffany & Co.; Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO, Verizon; Marie Toulantis, CEO, Barnes&Noble.com; and Richard Zannino, former-CEO, Dow Jones & Company. www.pace.edu/lubin.
For 101 years Pace University has combined exceptional academics with professional experiences and the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, New York, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Lienhard School of Nursing, Lubin School of Business, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. www.pace.edu.
The George Washington University’s School of Business prepares students for professional management careers. The school is a recognized education leader, the result of a strategy to improve its high academic standards while providing practical experiences that leverage the unique advantages of its Washington location. The depth and variety of its academic and professional offerings provide rich opportunities for students in the school’s undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. www.business.gwu.edu.