Cumbria Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Ian Garner
Business Writer
1:00 AM 2nd March 2024

A Word To The Wise

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Experience, knowledge, and wisdom are vital ingredients for success in business and life in general. They add great value and can often be gained in conversation with smart people.

I attended a business event organised by two local universities a few months ago in which a gentleman, who freely admitted to being over eighty years of age, was proud that he had acquired wisdom along the way. He spoke about a familiar concept, knowledge exchange, but added another concept, wisdom exchange. He was speaking about academia, but the idea of including wisdom, along with knowledge and experience, is a valuable commodity for business too.

Knowledge exchange includes any activities engaging non-academic audiences in your research—for example, as partners, participants, collaborators, or co-producers—or with it, as audiences or users.
The London School of Economics

The speaker at this event suggested another exchange that could be just as valuable to academia and the world of business. The wisdom exchange.

In Canada, and probably elsewhere, they have introduced the Wisdom Exchange Project, which is a social connection project that aims to connect older adults with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to spark new friendships for people that wouldn’t normally meet.

It got me thinking: are we too quick to dismiss a bit of grey hair as a sign of stagnation of thought, and do we underestimate the value of wisdom?

There’s a gap between generational cohorts, which risks older people dismissing younger people’s views and younger people ignoring the knowledge and experience of the older generation.

We’ve all heard the phrase “male, pale, and stale,” which is bandied about too often without considering it offensive. Older women are also often dismissed, ignoring that a lifetime of experience and learning can develop wisdom that sees no discrimination by gender, race, or religion.

We ignore the wisdom that comes with age and experience at our peril.

However, this is a two-way street. Generation Z is sometimes dismissed as ‘woke, broke, and complicated.’ They have thin wallets and expensive tastes. The older generation thinks of them as idealistic and naive, but Gen Z is also known for being passionate about the planet and sustainability, valuing authenticity, being alert to their wellbeing and health, and being especially challenging to established norms and old thinking.

Knowledge is described by the Cambridge Dictionary as “an understanding of or information about a subject that you get by experience or study, either known by one person or by people generally.”

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
A definition of experience by Collins Online Dictionary is, “Experience is knowledge or skill in a particular job or activity that you have gained because you have done that job or activity for a long time.”

Wisdom has been described as “the ability to use your knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgements.”

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.
Albert Einstein

Confucious. always good for a thoughtful quote, suggested these words of insight: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Jimi Hendrix, widely recognised as one of the most creative and influential musicians of the 20th century, also had a word to say about wisdom. He said, “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

It is always good to gather intelligence and understanding from as many sources as you can when making important decisions, but I also remember a classic line from Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne: “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Ian Garner
Ian Garner
Ian Garner is a retired Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI) and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD).

Ian is a board member of Maggie’s Yorkshire. Maggie’s provides emotional and practical cancer support and information in centres across the UK and online, with their centre in Leeds based at St James’s Hospital.

He is founder and director at Practical Solutions Management, a strategic consulting practice, and skilled in developing strategy and providing strategic direction, specialising in business growth and leadership.