Knowledge, wisdom and trust

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

The above quote is either attributed to Miles Kington, a British writer, or to Brian O’Driscoll, an Irish rugby player. I’m not sure who of the two was first, but it raises an interesting question: how would your company interpret this statement?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons (CC0 1.0)

Some companies would certainly issue a standard operating procedure, create a work instruction template, or publish a corporate policy document on what to put into and not to put into a fruit cocktail. Never put tomatoes in a fruit salad. Full stop! Period!

While other organizations trust on the wisdom, common sense and competence of their people and assume that they will be perfectly capable of making a decent fruit salad. Creative staff members might even engage in product innovation by adding some exotic berries or nuts to the mix.

This observation leads me to another quote, by Simon Sinek:

When leaders are willing to prioritize trust over performance, performance almost always follows.

How about the company that you work for and the leaders that you work with?

X-ing wombats

I am currently visiting Australia for a public speaking engagement, combined with a series of customer meetings. And — unlike from other destinations ― I will take a small souvenir with me from Down Under.

When you add up the number of kilometers I have traveled during my career, I may have circled the globe more than 25 times. And now that the children have become too old to play with toys, and the collection of ‘exotic’ earrings, bracelets, and necklaces is filling my spouse’s entire jewel case, we decided that I should no longer feel obliged to bring home a little present from each single business trip.

But this time I made an exception, and I bought a gadget for myself. You may have seen them before: the black-on-yellow plastic road sign replicas that warn drivers for kangaroos, koalas or other wild animals crossing the road. Though I’m not an Australian wildlife expert, I plan to put up this sign on my cubicle wall to warn my colleagues (and remind myself) to beware of wombats.

wombat

Of course I will have to explain them first that the “wombat” word on my wall does not stand for an Australian marsupial, but that it is an acronym for Waste Of Money, Brains And Time. Among the activities that people (including me) perform at work, I tend to distinguish 3 major categories: the need to have ones, the nice to have ones, and the WOMBATs. Each of them has an obvious immediacy, a corresponding measure of relevance, and a decreasing order of importance.

I expect that my wombat will soon become a visual signpost at work. Next time when someone walks in and out my work spot, I’m sure that my little marsupial friend on the wall will remind him or her to focus on what’s really essential ― instead of wasting their and my scarce resources on something which may not be needed, cost-effective, or urgent at all…