How to get out of a crisis? Not with rules, not with policies. Everybody should watch this 19-minute online video of Barry Schwartz from the latest TED conference. It went live on the Web yesterday, February 16.
Here are some quotes: It’s way better in context, but still:
At TED, brilliance is rampant. It’s scary. The good news is that you don’t have to be brilliant to be wise. The bad news is that without wisdom, brilliance isn’t enough.
Schwartz pits what he calls moral wisdom against rules and procedures, which, in context, work out to be basically the opposite of moral wisdom. Here too, much better in context, but so you get the idea:
Rules and procedures may be dumb, but they spare you from thinking.
The truth is that neither rules nor incentives is good enough to do the job.
Scripts like these are insurance policies against disaster. And they prevent disaster. But what they assure, in its place, is mediocrity.
He suggests that ideally everyone should do what’s right because it’s right, not because of rules and regulation.
A wise person knows:
- When and how to make an exception to every rule.
- When and how to improvise.
- Real-world problems are often ambiguous and ill-defined, and the context is always changing. A wise person is like a jazz musician, using the notes on the page, but dancing around them, inventing situations that are appropriate for the situation and the people at hand.
If for whatever reason you don’t see the video here, you can click here to go to the source on TED.com.