In 2019 a broad group of US CEOs, on behalf of an association called the Business Roundtable, signed a manifesto advocating the need to understand large companies as much more than vehicles for generating maximum value for their shareholders. Aligned with stakeholder theory, they argued rather for the need for their organisations to balance the interests of a wider group of stakeholders. If the manifesto is more than a simple A4 page, which is yet to be demonstrated, managers around the world will have to cultivate with greater intensity a new art: the art of wisdom.

The word, of course, does not exist. But the idea is this: how to make choices between opposites without having to ignore the tension between them? Life is full of oppositions and trade-offs. What you gain on one side you lose on the other. So is life and the life of an executive in particular: what you give to the manager is lost to the shareholder; what you give to the client is lost to the employee; the prize I give to Mary I do not give to Manuel. What the Business Roundtable's manifesto is a reminder of is the need to think of choices as processes that occur over time and imply more of a sense of dynamic balance and holistic gain than the mindset geared towards independent gains locked into short temporal pockets.

The point is that when we talk about managers, we talk about humans. We talk about us. When we talk about the employee, we talk about you and me. How often do you get a chance to think about your life choices? What about smaller choices, like the one to snooze your alarm clock? Or whether you eat fish or meat for lunch? The art of making choices is not an elite skill. It is a skill to survive. So that we can become more sapiens sapiens.

Progression does not mean evolution. The most evolved being is the one who manages his energy best according to his ability to choose faster, better and more effectively; but for whom? For himself.

This art of working out trade-offs and, when possible, transforming them into paradoxes, i.e. opposites that define each other and endure over time, is at the heart of choosenology - or choo-wisdom. How to make the choices that best serve a diversity of agents, in the best possible way, over time. From this perspective, making choices is no longer a natural disposition but a skill to be cultivated systematically.

It is no longer a question of the paradox of choice but of the choice of paradox: how to choose paradoxically, that is, integratively. To choose integratively (one thing and the other or both-and) is not to take the middle road or the half-pipes. It means trying to find ways to reconcile oppositions, to take advantage of diversity, to appreciate difference, to cultivate respect for opposition.

In a world in the process of polarisation, the art of wisdom represents a critical competence to prevent today's choices becoming a constraint on tomorrow's possibilities.


As a result of the partnership Nova SBE x Mercer, the Adam's Choicea learning experience for executives, lasting 8 months and with an immersion phase from 28 to 30 May 2020. This article was developed in this context, in co-authorship with Carolina Almeida Cruz, co-responsible at Mercer for this strategic partnership.

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