Knowledge can be dangerous. Smart people can do monumentally stupid things. Intelligence can be put to a bad use. But this doesn't mean that knowledge and intelligence are to be avoided. It means only that they need the proper accompaniment - wisdom.
I've written often recently about wisdom. And that's because it's so misunderstood in our time. Because it's misunderstood, it's severely undervalued. And there may be nothing more valuable, in business and life, than true wisdom.
Of course, we use the word 'wisdom,' and its adjectival form 'wise,' in two different ways. It can be used of a statement, an aphorism, or a book. "There is a lot of wisdom in that book." Or: "What he said was very wise." In this sense, the word wisdom means, simply, articulated insight.
But it's possible to know a lot of wise aphorisms, epigrams, and witticisms, while doing foolish things. There was a time in my life where I was a living demonstration of that possibility. And that leads us to an important distinction.
When a person, as distinct from a statement or book, is said to be wise, or to have great wisdom, we mean to refer not to articulated insight, but rather to embodied discernment. A wise person discerns good from bad, right from wrong, appropriate from inappropriate, better from worse, and favorable from unfavorable, as well as many other differences, in a way that foolish people can't. And that's a matter of judgment and understanding. But wisdom, when attributed to a person, has to be embodied in action of some sort, or it isn't genuine. There are, you see, two sides to personal wisdom, a side that involves understanding, and a side that involves doing. One side without the other isn't wisdom. Good judgment without good action is surely foolish. And the failure can go the other way, too. Good action that doesn't come from good judgment is just from luck or habit, and not a direct manifestation of wisdom. For true wisdom to be present, thought and action have to mesh.
Knowledge without wisdom, just like action without wisdom, can take a person, or an organization, off the rails as quickly as anything. Because of this, as well as for many more reasons, we ought to be hiring for wisdom, training for wisdom, promoting wisdom, and encouraging it in every way we can, in business, politics, and our personal lives. Any other course is, of course, unwise.