What is common sense? How important is it in business?
In business, I believe knowledge and experience make for common sense. If you don’t have both, you’re working from opinion. Common sense is a way of thinking, based on what you know for sure.
You might have heard your grandmother say: “that girl is full of common sense.” She meant it as a compliment. The “she” grandma was referring to was a highly practical gal, or in today’s speak, someone who exercised good sense and sound judgement that consistently led to sound outcomes. Chances are this gal was working from what she knew for sure.
It’s called common sense because, supposedly, it’s common to all of us.
It’s called common sense because, supposedly, it’s common to all of us. That’s debatable, since we all do things that don’t make any sense. We spend too much, text while driving, drive over the speed limit, eat a second piece of cheesecake even though we’re on a diet, procrastinate on a project, delay backing up our phone or PC and ignore our doctor’s advice. More than likely, as most of us are doing these things, we know they don’t make sense, but we throw caution to the wind and do them anyway. (Just for fun, take the quiz at the end of this blog if you want to to test your common sense.)
Despite what we might think, common sense is not necessarily linked to a high IQ.
Every day we hear something, read something or see something, that doesn’t make common sense. Politics can be a minefield of questionable sense. Government decisions on how our money should be spent are no different. (For an eye opener, on common sense gone MIA (Missing in Action), check out the 2015 17th Annual Teddy Government waste award winners) It’s the same in business. Business leaders regularly exercise good judgement as well as poor judgement; decisions rooted in common sense or resulting from the lack of it. Despite what we might think, common sense is not necessarily linked to a high IQ.
Not all people with common sense are forward thinkers.
In business we use common sense daily, to prioritize. It’s our way of connecting the dots to business preservation. Business thinkers who connect the dots can be forward thinkers, the surest route to business success. That doesn’t mean all forward thinkers have common sense. And not all people with common sense are forward thinkers.
In business you must constantly assess situations. Common sense helps out here too. It allows us to avoid stressful situations. When we are in an unavoidable situation, we can use common sense to negotiate a way out. The more experience I have, the more common sense I accumulate. Was I born with the inclination for common sense? I repeat: I think it’s learned.
Remember Einstein’s sage advice?
A person with common sense also learns from mistakes. Remember Einstein’s sage advice? “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In business, as in life, if we don’t learn from our mistakes we’re liable to make them again. Common sense encourages us to look around and see what’s happening beyond our own business world. We can also learn from the mistakes as well as the successes of others, a common sense learning approach that works well.
Most common sense people have learned the art of removing themselves from a situation in order to look at it objectively.
Common sense allows us to assess the value of moving forward and double check the move with our intuition — a gut feeling that is based on our past business knowledge and experience — before we act. We’re able to see both the big picture and the details and assess how the details could help or hinder the outcome. Yes, we value and take into account the (knowledgeable) opinions of business others, but we don’t allow your own sound judgement to be clouded by their perceptions. Most common sense people have learned the art of removing themselves from a situation in order to look at it objectively.
You’ve heard of street smarts. There are business smarts too. They’re centered on developing a plan, understanding the weaknesses of the plan and setting up contingencies. Business common sense, based on knowledge and experience (and that dose of intuition), allows us to clearly and objectively assess every business course of action.
There’s a downside to common sense
There’s a downside to common sense in business and we need to guard against it. We must never become too pragmatic. Good business benefits from a healthy dose of intuition and once in a while, a leap of faith. Both might seem at odds with common sense, but they’re really not. Case in point; we started 3H in the middle of a recession!
Got a comical example of common sense missing in action, send it to me?
Grandma would roll her eyes at this one! But in today’s world, there’s an internet answer for everything: How to Develop Common Sense: 8 Steps (with pictures)
Just for fun, see if you have common sense and take the quiz on Quiznatic
A little more serious from Forbes: