Leaders Need to Harness Aristotle’s 3 Types of Knowledge - Deepstash
Leading in Product Management

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Improving your leadership capability

A critical skill for leaders is the ability to figure out what kind of thinking is necessary to address a given challenge.

The wrong kind of thinking about a problem happens all the time because different types of effort require different types of knowledge. For example, you may analyze scientific data when a values-informed judgment call is needed, or you'll trust your instincts where a data analysis would expose your faulty thinking.

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Solving different types of problems

Solving different types of problems

Aristotle outlined distinct types of knowledge required to solve problems in three realms.

  • Techne was craft knowledge: learning to use tools and methods to create something, such as a farmer designing an irrigation system.
  • Episteme was scientific knowledge: discovering the laws of nature. An astronomer contemplating why galaxies turn the way they do will fall in this realm.
  • Phronesis was similar to ethical judgment: The perspective-taking and wisdom required to make decisions when there are multiple possible answers. For example, a policymaker deciding how to allocate limited funds.

Aristotle outlined these three kinds of knowledge because they require different styles of thinking. If you have a phronetic problem to solve, don't use an epistemic thinker.

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Recognize which thinking is needed

Most leaders haven't thought much about the realms of knowledge and what problems they can solve. If you're a leader of a large corporation with challenges in all three of these realms, it's a big part of your job to ensure the right kinds of thinking are used and in which situation it is required.

That means you should be able to recognize which mode of thinking is the best fit for a given problem, and which people are able to best deal with it.

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