30% of U.S. Workers Have Practical Wisdom

In a previous post, I discussed a wonderful TED talk by Barry Schwartz called Our Loss of Wisdom. Schwartz references what Aristotle called “practical wisdom,” the combination of moral will and moral skill.

As an analyst at heart, I decided to quantify practical wisdom. How? By creating two statements that are indicative of moral will and another two that reflect moral skill.

  • Moral will statements:
    • I have an obligation to help other people when I’m doing my job, even if it’s not part of my job description
    • I am willing to work harder or longer if my efforts will help other people
  • Moral skill statements:
    • I regularly do things that aren’t on my job description because they will help other people
    • I understand when it’s appropriate to break my company’s rules in order to help customers and other people

In the recent Temkin Group consumer benchmark study, we asked more than 5,000 U.S. employees if they agreed with those four statements. As you can see in the chart below:

  • More people agree with the moral will questions than the moral skill questions
  • We classified people as having moral will or skill if they agreed with both of the related statements. Sixty-nine percent have moral will, but only 36% have moral skill
  • When we looked at the combination of these skills, we found that 30% have practical wisdom—the combination of moral will and moral skill


I will continue to dig deeper into our dataset to understand the demographics and attitudes that go along with practical wisdom. So stay tuned.

The bottom line: When it comes to morality, there’s more will than skill

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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