Practical Wisdom – what it is, and is not

Practical Wisdom – Phronesis as Aristotle termed it – is the capacity we ascribe to those we see as having good judgement. It is one thing giving this powerful virtue a label. It is, however, a whole other thing to nail down how those we see as wise gain this excellence in judgement – and mark a path as to how others might acquire it!
Practical Wisdom is NOT a superpower, nor is it, as the psychologists would have you accept, yet another ‘intelligence’.
Practical Wisdom is NOT an innate capability – one is not born wise and age does not make one wise – only practising does!
The capacity of Practical Wisdom can best be seen as a nexus of skills and dispositions. It is a developable capacity – BUT the constituent dispositions and skills can only be learnt/acquired – they cannot be taught.
The model of Practical Wisdom that has been developed, and its constituent Dispositions and Capabilities, are described below.


Practical Wisdom has 5 constituent dispositions and 4 capabilities.

The founding disposition of Practical Wisdom is that of Reflexivity – the attempt to have a perspective on one’s own perspectives.

Being reflective is the route to reflexivity and to effective development of the constituent capabilities of Practical Wisdom.

Reflectivity is hence the foundational capability.

The other constituent capabilities are those of Reason, Dialogue and Imagination

  • Being sceptical, questioning, and skilled in argumentation is crucial
  • Being powerful in dialogue is essential
  • Being imaginative is vital

There are four other constituent dispositions of Practical Wisdom beyond the foundational one of reflexivity. Those are the ones that one has towards Others, Evidence/Knowledge, Issues/Problems, and one’s own Experience.

The wise one understands that managerial work is intrinsically political as it involves the melding of divergent perspectives and disparate interests around a collective purpose – The Mindful Manager must have metis – ‘street smarts’.

The entire nexus described above is immersed and imbued with emotion. We are not robots. We cannot be robots. We are human beings. Our emotions colour everything.

A graphic of the Practical Wisdom nexus is shown below. Beneath the model you can navigate to find out more about the dispositions and capabilities and begin the deliberate and systematic pursuit of Practical Wisdom

The Dispositions

The Capabilities

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