Friday, October 24, 2008

Smartness and Wisdom

The people working in the finance industry are some of the smartest people in the world. Many of them went to the best business schools. No doubt some got in because of their rich parents. But many proved their worth by excellent performance. They are smartly dressed, speak eloquently, and made huge salaries and even bigger bonuses. They are no doubt very smart people.

Yet they are also the same people who got the whole world into this mess. Why did they fail to see the danger in creating and selling these derivatives at huge risks. Perhaps they did, but were simply blinded by their greed. Or perhaps they truly did not see the risks. In either case, they are inexcusably foolish.

Why are so many people so smart and yet so foolish? Why are people so good at making short term and small gains, and yet so foolish in managing things that really matter in the long run?

They remind me of the rich man in the Gospel According To Luke, Chapter 12, verses 12 to 21, who tore down his barns and built bigger ones, to store all his grains and goods, thinking he could then sit back and relax, eat, drink and be merry. But God said, “You fool! This very night your life will be taken from you.”

Sadly, many of us mistook smartness for wisdom.

By the way, the photo is that of a chapel at Oxford University, symbolic of God being the true wisdom in a world of knowledge.


Anonymous said...

As a business analyst, I once tried to tell a marketing guy about some business risk when he made a system requirement. I was rebuked and he said, ' is about taking risks.' If what he said represents the philosophy that is educated in business school, those smart people in Wall Street are just performing at the full greatness of this philosophy today.

StephenC said...

Yeah. I have always been a bit skeptical of the values espoused by business schools - a legacy of my left-leaning days as a student.