Archive for February 17th, 2009
I was starting in on a relaxing coffee break with a friend, when I noticed something amiss with my beverage. My latte was fine. The problem was the mug. It was advertising a popular soft drink. A product not associated with a mug. A product generally served cold.
I wonder what the marketing genius was on when he thought of this odd juxtaposition. Or am I now doing exactly what was intended; shilling a product by dissing its presentation?
Barry Schwartz recently delivered a sensational 20-minute talk on the importance of practical wisdom. He began his talk by describing the obvious: we now live in a highly dysfunctional rule-bound society. What should we do about it? We need to make sure that kindness, care and empathy are a part of every job, whether or not these responsibilities are contained in the official job description. All of us need to have both moral will and moral skill, the two essential components of Aristotle’s conception of “moral wisdom.” Luckily for us, we now have a President who is willing to take the risk of reminding Americans of their duties to pursue moral wisdom.
Schwartz deserved that standing ovation he received after delivering this talk at TED. Much of his talk concerned our obsessions with rules. Yes, rules are oftentimes hopeful. They often help us avoid the mistakes of the past. On the other hand, wise people know that they sometimes need to improvise. They know when to break the rules in order to remedy situations. They know that they are never excused from being kind and decent, regardless of the “rules.” Schwartz gives several salient examples, an especially good one involving a janitor. Wise people know that they need to use rules not simply to “follow the rules” but to serve the needs of other people.