The Knowledge & Wisdom Site

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This site contains information about my knowledge and wisdom research. I created the site to generate interest in new ways of thinking about knowledge management, knowledge economies (sometimes called conceptual economies), knowledge policy, and knowledge societies. I also hope to stimulate thinking about subjects like wisdom, insight, maturity, creativity, and innovation. I am concerned about the lack of vision, imagination, and humanity in debates about knowledge and innovation. For knowledge policy and management. Only higher quality debate will enable knowledge to fully contribute to life.

I am a humanist, and seen from a humanist perspective contemporary discourses on knowledge contain unreasonable and unrealistic assumptions. There is little genuine understanding that fostering knowledge and innovation should be to achieve a better life measured in cultural, social, environmental and economic terms. We have lost sight of this guiding principle and instead narrowly focus on techno-economics. Contemporary knowledge-related management and knowledge policy focus on creating more information, science, and technology, assuming that more information, science, and technology causes life to improve. Although there is no doubt that information, science, and technology are invaluable, the accumulative assumption is not backed by research evidence. 

Knowledge is more than an economically instrumental resource. Knowledge has instrumental economic value but is much more valuable than this. The most important things to understand about knowledge are (1) how it is produced through culture (patterns of behaviour, beliefs, and values), (2) how the integration of knowledge happens, (3) how knowledge is communicated, (4) its social architecture, and (5) what is achieved using it. These are the fundamentals of knowledge systems. Knowledge is about people and how people live their lives: knowledge is about a community of minds achieving things.

Knowledge management and knowledge policy should reflect our knowledge of knowledge; scholars have researched knowledge for centuries and have much to tell about it, yet we ignore them. Uninformed views of knowledge limit what is achievable. However, understandings of wisdom expand the possibilities more positive things possible.

Bernard McKenna and I have developed the idea of Social Practice Wisdom (SPW). SPW is the ability to live coherently and appropriately to produce excellence for oneself and others. SPW is the pinnacle of social excellence creating excellence for a sustainable and humane world. Wise practitioners do this by integrating intellectual and ethical virtues in praxis (i.e. in specific cultural, social, political, and economic contexts) to create deliberative excellence to have positive long-term impacts for the world. SPW is largely developed from Aristotle's idea of practical wisdom (phronesis) and its analogue in Buddhism (upayaWisdom is the peak of human social excellence. Social Practice Wisdom is done in the messy reality of social life with constantly shifting social relations, resource limitations, power asymmetries, and environmental, technological and economic disruption. SPW is defined by five nested principles that integrate in appropriate ways (as defined by a situation) to create excellent action. A wise social practitioner creates integrity from the following five principles and has a strong tendency to act with integrity and excellence in all situations:
  1. Qualities of mind and spirit: An aware, equanimous, compassionate, humble, and actively open mind with habituated dispositions creating an integrated mental culture (bhāvana) and habitus of interrelated dispositions that drive insightful and virtuous action. This involves mindfulness, mentalisation, non-attachment (distancing) and acceptance,  and self-awareness to understand uncertainty and the relativities of life, including conflicting values, identities, cultures and politics, as well as imperfect knowledge.
  2. Agile and transcendent reasoning: Using knowledge, including aesthetic knowledge (direct, embodied, sensory, non-rational knowing), transcendent ability (e.g. creativity, insight, reflexivity, foresight, intuition, mindsight, trans-conceptuality [non linguistic knowing]), accurate (ontological and existential) insight, and understanding to adroitly deliberate, imagine, reflect, judge, and reason capable of creating insightful and transformative understandings and decisions in a given situation.
  3. Ethical virtuosity:  This includes virtues, like courage and generosity, but also compassion, ethical competence and the ability to understand and act positively on people's emotional, social and material needs. Furthermore, it entails ego transcendence and virtuous alignment of values with social behaviour; and insight into the human condition and shifting social relations to find the right and virtuous thing to do at the right time.
  4. Embodiment and Praxis (or wise action in practice)Drawing from one's habitus of dispositions to creatively and responsively (decisively) embody and enact wise performative skills in a situation, based on experience, understanding, timing, aesthetics and judgement as mastery for responsible application of knowledge, power, and communication as a wise way of being. This involves sensing and knowing why, how, and when to adapt to the surroundings and why, how, and when to change them. This is the art and craft of enacting wise social practice.
  5. Outcomes that improve the conditions of life: This involves galvanising leadership and artful communication to effect virtuous change with exceptional outcomes. Creating positive cultures and sustainable communities are central to this.

Despite understanding others and life so well, a wise social practitioner is not selfish or manipulative. 

The five principles are not a model or theory of wisdom but are useful in creating models or analytical frameworks for wisdom according to different situations, needs, and purposes. 

The central dynamic in SPW is a complex multidimensional integration that creates clarity and decisiveness through equanimity and corresponding dispositions that generate the insight, composure and motivation to embody and deploy the resources needed to act excellently and successfully in the best interests of oneself, others and the planet.

The greatest challenge the world faces is global climate change. Climate change threatens not just quality of life but the basis of life itself. The causes of global warming link to the assumption more knowledge, science and technology are necessarily good. I call this the accumulative assumption and argue that it is deeply flawed. I have no problem with knowledge, science, engineering and technology in themselves, but I do have a problem if focusing on them excludes other even more important things like enlightenment, creativity, the richness of social and cultural life, justice, democracy, well-being, and sustainability. What we need more of is wisdom. The 2007 to 2009 global financial crisis is linked to knowledge in the absence of wisdom.

I am a Professor at the Faculty of Business and Economics, Macquarie University, Australia. The people I have worked closely with include Bernard McKennaPhil GrahamGreg Hearn, Hannes Zacher, and Tom Mandeville. Others who I work with include David PauleenKim BoalRene ten BosJim BarkerPeter Liesch, and Brian Fitzgerald. Some of my major publications have involved collaborations with Steve FullerIan MilesJuli EflinStuart CunninghamPeter DrahosMichael PetersPeter CaseJonathon GoslingMatt Statler, and John Quiggin. These are all interesting people and it is worth looking at their work too.

In a nutshell, my research asks questions about the consequences of having lots of knowledge in the absence of wisdom, and its most basic assumption is that knowledge systems (including Knowledge Economies) are communication systems. My approach to understanding knowledge and doing analysis is informed by Hellenic philosophy (particularly Aristotle), Buddhist philosophysocial epistemology theory, communication theory (and particularly discourse theory), science and technology studies, and evolutionary economics. An analytic tool I use for research is Leximancer. Leximancer is great for analysing knowledge systems because it models meaning. Language is a primary data for knowledge research because knowledge is primarily (but not exclusively) expressed in language. But I am really a historian at heart; I did my PhD thesis on the 20th Century history of music technology manufacturing. Before entering academia I was a guitar maker and before that an insurance underwriter. I have also worked in factories, on building sites, in pubs, and have been a taxi driver. 

If you click the links in this sentence you will find information about my booksjournal articles, and book chapters. You may also want to have a look at my Blog

If there is anything else you think I should include on this site or if you want to talk to me you can contact me at

More On My Books

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