The surest route to a happier, more productive life and future
Most of us want to succeed. And most of us want to do the right thing. But we often forget that the way to
succeed is by doing the right thing, as Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe remind us in Practical Wisdom:
The Right Way to Do the Right Thing. When the institutions that shape our society need to change, the people
in them typically either make more rules or offer smarter incentives. But there is a better way, and in this
lively and provocative book, Schwartz and Sharpe explore the essential principle of problem solving that can
transform our lives: practical wisdom.
A concept that Aristotle identified millennia ago and that new scientific research reveals is as crucial today
as it was in ancient Greece, practical wisdom is the essential human quality that combines the fruits of our
individual experiences with our empathy and intellect. It’s how we learn to be a good friend or parent or doctor
or soldier or citizen or statesman. It’s how we come to understand, as the authors write, “the right way to do
the right thing in a particular circumstance, with a particular person, at a particular time.”
In Practical Wisdom, Schwartz and Sharpe explain the importance of wisdom in our daily lives and show how
to combat work situations that squeeze it out of our practices. They introduce us to what they call the “canny
outlaws,” people with the wisdom to work around the calcified conventions of business as usual to achieve
inspiring and satisfying results in daily life. And they identify System Changers, people who are building new,
more rewarding, and ultimately more effective ways to work. The result is a book that helps us understand
that wisdom is above all a practical idea.
What the world needs now is more people with practical wisdom and more institutions that allow them to
display it. And this is the book to teach us how to identify and cultivate it.