The Wisdom Conversations

Posted by Mike Kaaks

15 January 2014

This quote by Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626) leapt out at me recently:-

Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business

My observations
It could be a definition for Gen Y. What really attracted me though is that it confirms that there are some things in life which don't change. In this case it's that the getting of wisdom comes with age and experience. It did then in Bacon's time, and it does now. It also reminds us (sadly) that the journey of the physical self goes the other way!!

When we look at the lives of our parents and grandparents it's hard not to see things as being so different for us in our time. On deeper reflection one sees that the physical and material world is where most of the change exists. Spiritually we are much the same as they were. We are taller than in bacon's time and we live longer, but our journey through life is much as it was then - the energy of youth being replaced by the wisdom of age.

When wisdom comes to mind I find it an enriching experience to think about aboriginal elders passing on their wisdom through story telling of the myths that explain how life works. White beards, unhurried speaking, starry nights under clear skies, stories told in a way which captures and holds the young audience. Business is lacking such elders.

After 15 to 20 years of seasonal restructuring and flatter structures the people left carrying the business forward lack the age diversity which existed just 25 years before. This is as noticeable at the top of the structure as anywhere in the organisation. Almost no 60 year olds, few in their 50's and so on. It applies even more so in the layer of management reporting to the lead teams.

The solution
These and other thoughts on things like collaboration, conversation, listening, purpose, and knowing oneself led me to create a program about the qualities of wisdom and leadership that is to be delivered through a series of conversations. It is based on elders being responsible for the development of the new generations. Participants will be guided through an exploration of the wisdoms of a number of modern thinkers on the oldest of questions. Colleagues are encouraged to express their beliefs and test them against those of their peers, and those of the chosen elders. These are conversations in which the interest of the young leader is at the forefront. It is not about the wise person, or the facilitator and his messages. The art in this program is to help people find things from within themselves and within the collective.

The structure
A program of this nature can only start in one place - Knowing Thyself. It's a maxim as old as ancient Greece. How the team members see themselves and how others see them is the subject of a rigorous face to face conversation in which the single strong awareness of self emerges. Then follow conversations about Purpose and Motivation; then heightened collaboration and improved decision making. In the fourth conversation the team is challenged on the subject of vulnerability and opened up to gratitude, leading to the final session in which they are encouraged to give expression to the future which has been emerging through their engagement with each other.

Your motivation
I've been impressed many times over the years when I've met younger people who are ahead of the wisdom weight-for-age scale. I see it as a blessing. This program is designed to bring as many leaders as possible in ahead of the scale. I'd love to have you and your organisation engage with me in these conversations.