When faced with all sorts of risks, gaps, and constraints to solve complex situations in a fast-moving, highly-competitive market, business leaders can’t afford to make too many mistakes. However, how do you weigh what matters most to ensure that you make the best decision?
Fortunately, many centuries ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle provided us with a practical guide to tackle complex issues, called the Nicomachean Ethics. We will only scratch the surface of some ten books (or essays) on ethics.
By viewing complexities from three angles, Techné, Episteme, and Phronesis, Aristotle suggested that we’re more likely to make better informed and more inclusive decisions on the events of current and future endeavors or business ventures. Additionally, by perceiving a business venture from three aspects, Feasibility, Viability, and Desirability, you’re given an integral framework to push your organization in the right direction.
The Grandmaster’s Playbook
Techné, Episteme, and Phronesis
1 — Techné is what Artistotle used to describe practical knowledge. It is the set of principles, or rational method, involved in producing an object or the accomplishment of an end; the knowledge of such principles or method; also artisanship.
Techné forces us to look at the problem from a perspective of available resources, processes, capabilities, skills, and systems ─ in light of executing the corporate mission.
The central question here is: Is the business venture FEASIBLE?
Can we do it, distinctively? What’s our competitive edge? Is this edge still relevant? What are the practical gaps and constraints in terms of skills, resources, and capabilities?
Techné is closely related to pathos or emotions. Therefore, this aspect can be linked to Emotional Intelligence (EI); the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings, and label them appropriately. Without EI, there is no empathy. And without empathy, there is no engagement. Empathy allows front office employees to relate to customer’s problems, while employee and customer engagement combined allows the business to grow.
2 — Episteme is about theoretical knowledge or science. It is a fixed set of information possessed by people, a system of understanding, or a body of ideas that shape academic knowledge. It involves wisdom concerning universal truths; science.
Today, Episteme is predominantly about research, algorithms, data, insights, and analysis to devise and adjust the business strategy.
The central question here is: Is the business venture VIABLE?
Can we do it, profitably? How well do/should we perform in comparison? What’s our current share of the market? Can we increase productivity?
Episteme is closely related to logos or logic. It refers to the reasoning power in humans; logos was considered the agent of creation and the agent through which the human mind can apprehend and comprehend the cosmos. We’ve linked both, Episteme and Logos, to Artificial Intelligence (AI) as leaders rely more and more on data and algorithms to make informed decisions.
3 — Phronesis is about practical wisdom or ethics. It is the capability to consider the mode of action to deliver change, especially to enhance the quality of life; some believe it includes the ability to reflect upon; it is practical wisdom, knowledge of the proper ends of life. Phronesis relates to leadership, the code of conduct, rules and regulations, compliance, and governance ─ in light of reflecting upon the corporate vision.
The central question here is: Is the business venture DESIRABLE?
Can we do it, attractively? Are we doing the just thing? Do we comply with rules and regulations? Are we aligned with our moral code? Do we need to change our course of action?
Phronesis is related to Ethos. Ethos is the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution. Since ethos is what defines the group, it is what defines the culture. And culture and leadership are, as you know, closely related. We’re not judged by our words, rather by our actions. Additionally, we believe Phronesis is associated with Social Intelligence (SI): the ability to understand and manage people and to act wisely in human relations.
By perceiving complexities from three separate angles or lenses, leaders are bound to make better informed, less-isolated, and non-biased decisions:
- LENS 1 – Techné / Pathos / Emotional Intelligence:
– Does it affect what we do and how we do it?
– Does it affect the value that we create & deliver?
– Does it affect our mission?
- LENS 2 – Episteme / Logos / Artificial Intelligence:
– Does it affect how well we do it?
– Does it affect the value that we can capture?
– Does it affect our strategy?
- LENS 3 – Phronesis / Ethos / Social Intelligence:
– Does it affect our stakeholders?
– Does it affect our perception of value?
– Does it affect our vision?
Any questions? Feel free to ask.