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Navigating with wisdom on the stormy waters of 2021

Navigating with wisdom on the stormy waters of 2021

2020 was a year that we didn’t see coming. Our vision was blindsided, our foresight clouded

While there are many, many lessons to be learned from this year of 2020, it’s that the days are over for having the world slow down enough to allow a carefully engineered cruise to well-defined outcomes.

We’re immersed in what sometimes feels like a tidal wave of change, whereby:

    • “Best results” is a fast-moving target in a fast-changing world
    • “Fail faster to succeed sooner” is the paradoxical mantra for growth
    • Stakeholder well-being is more important than self-interested benefits
    • Iterative innovation is surging – involving stakeholders throughout the process
    • Data-driven, information-driven, and knowledge-driven decision-making are insufficient

Navigating these waters requires an integration of head, heart, and hands. Knowledge is the head. “Human values” – the positive qualities of good character found across cultures and time – is the heart. Skills are the hands.

Put the three together – knowledge + human values + skills – and you have our definition of Wisdom... Wisdom that can be intuited, learned, nurtured, and put into practice as innovative solutions to our challenges. Wisdom that gets reflected in the results of our innovative work. Wisdom that is cultivated by consistently learning as we innovate, and innovating as we learn.

David Kolb once defined learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” To this new knowledge, we add human values such as caring, empathy, trust, integrity, openness, humility, service, and doing no harm – giving a new depth of meaning and usefulness to the knowledge. To that we add collaborative skills to put it all into practice.

The stormy waters we’re called to navigate are choppy and difficult. On our journey, as we strive to grow and apply our wisdom, we may make mistakes and even face failure. Perseverance, and even celebration, are called for. As Henry Ford once said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

In 1971, 3M ran an ad with the headline, “3M has made a lot of mistakes. We’re very proud of some of them.” So long as they were learning something valuable, 3M saw mistakes as a sign of experimentation and growth.

Actress Reese Witherspoon took it one step further: “If you're not failing, you’re really not learning." Yet that takes courage and persistence, as once described by Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

When we keep our eyes sharply focused on cultivating, sharing, and applying our wisdom – not just data, information, or knowledge – we provide an extraordinary scope, depth, and balance to our innovative endeavors. Given the ever-evolving dimension of our life and work, that is simply a wise thing to do.

I’m sure you can add your own experience about the need to innovate with wisdom through these stormy waters. I’d appreciate learning from your insights. Connect with me on Linkedin and share your thoughts!


William Miller's picture
About the author

William C. Miller, co-founder of Values Centered Innovation, is passionate about integrating emotional intelligence, human values, and mental discipline with our innate capabilities to be innovative.