We can witness bouts of people being clever and wise all the time. When we think of something clever, we think of someone quickly responding to and fixing an issue. The kind of thing that we personally would not have quickly thought of and are impressed when someone else does. We have also seen people show wisdom, applying their experience to methodically solve problems over a period of time. Being clever implies a quick solution to something whereas being wise implies a longer, well thought out approach to a solution. Which would you rather be?
“A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”—Einstein
Looking at Einstein’s quote, which seems better to you? It seems that he is saying it is better to be wise than clever. There is definitely some merit to this. I agree it would be better to avoid a problem all together, than have to solve a problem I could have prevented. This implies that we need to take our time when we are doing something. We need to think things through and use our experience so we can avoid creating a future problem. Sure this can be difficult, but if we take our time and apply wisdom to what we do, we can surely avoid some problems.
Use Wisdom When You Can
There are times where we need to use our wisdom and experience. Times where applying wisdom is the preferred approach, as said in Einstein’s quote. When we are creating a solution or new offering, we NEED to apply wisdom. We want to carefully review our solutions and approaches to ensure we are avoiding future problems.
There are times where we need to slow down and take our time to consider the potential pitfalls of what we have built and how we can avoid them. For example, in the past, American assembly lines for cars would address problems with quick fixes. We Americans would put quick fixes in place when, for example, a car door would not fit on the car. We would create a fix for it then and there. Whereas, a wiser approach was taken by Japanese assembly lines. When a door would not fit on the car, they would halt the assembly line and go back to the beginning to figure out what is causing the door not to fit. And then fix the problem there. They applied wisdom in the beginning to avoid a problem farther down the line.
Being Clever Has It’s Moments
There will be times in life where you need to be clever. For example, I use to work for a company that required us to bill a specific number of hours to four different customers on a daily basis. We used a phone time entry system that used quick lists to identify our customers. When the customer’s name came over the phone, we had to remember and enter the number of hours to be billed to that customer. It was hard to remember how many hours per customer, which resulted in some billing mistakes. One of my buddies solved this problem by being clever. Instead of naming the quick entry items by customer name, he entered them by the number of hours that was suppose to be billed. When the number of hours to bill to a specific customer was read across the phone, he simply entered those number of hours. Clever!!!
In this example, my buddy needed to be clever because he was addressing a problem he didn’t create. This is a great example where being clever is the best approach. Being clever can be great when you are addressing problems you didn’t create and problems that are not under your control. He was able to solve a problem, remembering how many hours to bill per customer, by being clever. Since he had no power to change the situation, nor was he responsible for creating the problem, being clever came to his aid. We all quickly adopted his solution.
There are times where we need to be clever and times where we need to apply wisdom. It is to our advantage to be clever when we are addressing a problem that needs an immediate fix. If we can solve a problem quickly, then it can buy us some time to apply some wisdom to what we have done. When we apply some wisdom, we can come up with solutions that will help us avoid the problem in the future.
The quick rule of thumb is that you can be clever for some quick fixes as long as you take a wiser approach, once the immediate problem is fixed, to ensure your fix can avoid future problems!!! We need to be both clever and wise!!!