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Practical Wisdom January 5, 2011

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Doctors, teachers, judges, and lawyers.  Police officers, pilots, engineers, and parents.  Infinite dependence on their collective wisdom, experience, judgment, and virtue.  Ethics, responsibility, authority, and – most of all – a human relationship with those whom they serve.

All for nothing.

Society demands justice when things go wrong.  Rules and regulations, policies, penalties, and incentives are put up as hurdles to future “malpractice” – whether intentional or not.

But these rules come with a price.  As much as we desire to achieve some utopia of perfect human existence in which no one is immoral or makes mistakes, our tolerance – or rather lack of it – dehumanizes us.  As business consultant Alan Weiss once said, “A zero-tolerance policy is another way of saying ‘we don’t trust you to use your judgment.'”  But yet, this is where we find ourselves.

I strongly urge you to take twenty-three minutes out of your busy schedule to contemplate what it means when we deny our human need to provide meaningful work and service to others.  Not necessarily altruism, but a recognition that we serve other people, not just economic incentives.  Those twenty-three minutes might be spent in any manner you desire, but I highly recommend that you try listening to Mr. Barry Schwartz describe how our rules contribute as much, if not more, to our collective moral decline than any one person or group could on their own.

Wisdom, empathy, and human connections form the basis for any meaningful work that we might undertake.  Without them, we are truly merely part of an inhuman machine, and it doesn’t have to be that way.