Practical Wisdom, a right way to do the right think

As a  fan of Barry Schwartz,  I recently posted  his recent TED talk on our loss of wisdom on this blog.  As a result Adam Khatib, working @Riverhead Books.  requested me to review Schwartz’s latest book Practical Wisom, the Right way to do the right things.

The core


A well written analysis why we have to be aware of the consequences of using  rules and rewards. One might consider it as a reasoned call to break down the broken system that makes professional life ineffective and often uninspiring. Instead – Schwartz proposes – we have to embrace the essential and practical human quality that can be developed in our lives: Wisdom.

>Some of the issues the authors address in the book are a result of framing. Or as often stated in this blog, constructing a context and acting accordingly.  Using this approach, one can as a professional or as person gain understanding and show more effective behavior.

Many of the issues that are addressed in this book – teaching for  tests results and associated funding and grant,  health care professional behavior – are familiar to every one of us.  Schwartz and Sharpe point clearly the crux of the problem: We often act to obtain rewards or to obtain approval. But by doing this  amongst others – we lose the excitement of achieving goals after receiving the reward. Some reference is made to the work of CS Dweck: do you want to prove or do you want to improve.   A need for improvement is the only way for personal and professional mastery.

The authors outline a short history of the change in professional attitude in health care, law and education. Living in the Netherlands, it was astonishing and embarrassing to read how universal the side effects of rules and rewards have become.

As a person and as a professional i appreciated that Schwartz and Sharpe illustrate how to get back in touch with our wisdom (is there any impractical wisdom, by the way?).

The only flaw in the book is that it does not outline  a step  by step approach. But – as this would be a rule – I can imagine why the authors did not include such a chapter. Moreover,  after framing the content of the book to your own context, the reward will be even bigger. You will – after reading and reacting – be able to do the right thing in a particular circumstance with a particular person at a particular time.

My rating

4,5 stars on a scale 0-5.

The book is very convincing on the effects of rules and rewards for the development and acting of professionals and persons.

Practical Wisdom  is clearly a product of passion  for a  clear message.

Lots of  cases that inspires one, presented well written, elaborately and simple.

This book is recommended reading for anyone who is interested in connecting to the changing context in  the world. It is – and the authors do not sketch the steps – then up to you how that knowledge and information will be applied by you  to achieve business, professional or personal practical wisdom.

Photocredit: http://cyclechic.blog.hu/

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