Sunday, May 17, 2009

Barry Schwartz: The real crisis? We stopped being wise

Barry Schwartz: The real crisis? We stopped being wise is a TED talk by American psychologist and author Barry Schwartz.  According to TED he makes "a passionate call for 'practical wisdom' as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world."

This talk took my breath away.  I've always felt bureaucracy and rules can be suffocating, which doesn't mean that we should abandon civility and world order altogether, but rather, that they are never enough and you must have a clearer light from within to guide you. 

Barry quotes from Aristotle, who said  practical wisdom was having the moral will to do right by other people, and the moral skill to figure out what that means. Barry argues a wise person knows when and how to make the exception to every rule.  A wise person knows how to improvise, as real world problems are ambiguous and ill-defined. The context is always changing.  A wise person knows how to use these moral skills in pursuit of the right aims. To serve other people, not to manipulate other people.  Finally he argues a wise person is made, not born. Wisdom comes from experience.  You need time to get to know the people you are serving, the permission to improvise and occasionally fail, and mentorship from wise teachers.

Barry says that the good news is that you do not need to be brilliant to be wise, but the bad news is that without wisdom brilliance, wisdom is not enough. It can get you in trouble. It's a mad, mad world, and we need practical wisdom to fix it. 

I've always love improv, and I love this guy. A+.  

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