A Wisdom Manifesto – Re:interpreted and Re:framed

By | May 14, 2010

Back door at the Design Factory

I went back to look at Umair Haque’s Wisdom Manifesto I’d linked to last week, as I’d been mulling over things such as values, meaning and understanding after my post yesterday. In context of the values we espouse here at the Design Factory, it struck me that there may be seeds of an entire foundation for solution development, a platform in fact, if you will. But since those thoughts are still fuzzy and as yet unformed, I thought I’d begin by pulling apart Haque’s masterpiece and applying the creative license to re-interpret it with respect to the challenge of addressing the “unknown” or the “emerging future”, or even, “innovation”. (Or rather, banana…)

Haque begins his manifesto with the following introduction,  partially expressed here:

There’s a simpler way to express institutional capital. It’s about wisdom. It is because we’ve beggared ourselves of wisdom that we’re bereft of cash, jobs, and meaning.

The scarcest, rarest, and most valuable resource in the world today is wisdom. The countries, companies, and people that possess it will prosper. In many ways, wisdom is the opposite of strategy — and today, it is strategy, bought by the dozen from legions of besuited, back-slapping consultants, that is cheap, abundant, and worth little.

How large is the economic gap between wisdom and strategy? It begins in the billions. JPMorgan wasn’t wise, and now it has to set aside $3 billion in “model-uncertainty reserves.” Toyota wasn’t wise — and the price of that lack of wisdom is already $10 billion and rising.

Think wisdom’s warm-and-fuzzy? Think again. It’s as hard-as-nails, and as sharp as a razor.

And while his writing continues on to elaborate 9 key points, it is from these that I will now extract sentences to re-frame and reinterpret as I attempt to crystallize my thoughts on my key takeaways from his writing:


Wisdom isn’t about what you “value” — it’s about how everyone values you. To get wise, articulate your essence


Wisdom happens by understanding the who, why, what, and how of suffering. That’s the only source of the most explosive kind of horsepower — not just physical or intellectual energy, but emotional and ethical energy.

High Standards

Wisdom is measured against a higher standard than mere strategy: the one set by what people, communities, and society lack.

Curiosity (thank you Wycliffe for the perfect word found in the kitchen)

Wisdom requires space for experimentation and play — for people to find new ways to change the world.


Strategy is the application of force. Wisdom is the application of love. Strategy suppresses, but Wisdom evokes. Its test is the ability to spark new ideas, concepts, and solutions. That is how to be valued by people, communities, and society

Uncompromising vision

Wisdom’s battle is the real one: never to compromise your essence, the way you want to change the world.

Ennoble (to elevate in degree, excellence, or respect; dignify; exalt)

Wisdom is about what’s higher. Can you hold yourself up to a higher standard than the bare minimum rule-makers ask for (profit, here and now) — and by doing so, create more value?


Wisdom is eternal. And that means that it’s a ceaseless quest for learning.

Now I can see here the seeds of a path towards wisdom, embodied and embedded in new ways of thinking and making and doing. We now have  the following 8 conceptual keywords:

Value –  Understanding –  High Standards –  Curiosity –  Love –  Uncompromising vision –  Ennoble and Eternal.

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