Come Back Common Sense…We Need You!

Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man’s upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Just lately, I’m thinking that our “ground floor” is beginning to suffer from termites.  Perhaps it is that in this age of information, litigation, and personal rights, we have stopped trusting our deeper instincts about what is right.  And, in many circles, we fail to acknowledge the value of common sense in our decision-making practices.

In 1998, Lori Borgman wrote an article called The Death of Common Sense. Here is an excerpt

Common Sense, aka C.S., lived a long life, but died from heart failure at the brink of the millennium. No one really knows how old he was, his birth records were long ago entangled in miles and miles of bureaucratic red tape. 
Known affectionately to close friends as Horse Sense and Sound Thinking, he selflessly devoted himself to a life of service in homes, schools, hospitals and offices, helping folks get jobs done without a lot of fanfare, whooping and hollering. Rules and regulations and petty, frivolous lawsuits held no power over C.S. (Read more…)

No doubt many have read this passage and nodded reverently at its wisdom.  I have.  And yet it seems so many of us continue to ignore its message and devalue the power of trusting ourselves, and each other, to come up with ideas and solutions that transcend tight-fitting structures and rules that serve only to strangle growth and creativity

But in the midst of this rather gloomy outlook, there is hope and possibility.  Common sense, at least in the corporate world, may only be in a coma.  There are some very smart people out there who see something greater and more meaningful than the structures we create.  They are people who champion the notion that neither ideas nor humans can be corralled into little boxes of rules for very long.  They value, promote and initiate change that invites collaboration, creativity, engagement, happiness and yes, common sense into the workplace.

It would be wiser to listen to them, and to our own instincts more often than to seek solutions from books of rules or complicated business models.

Here are some articles that, to me, invite common sense to the table:

The Responsibility Myth by Susan Mazza

What NOT to Learn from Zappos by Anne Perschel

Gut Check on Your Intestinal Fortitude by Art Petty

Be the Boss, Don’t be a Jerk by Wally Bock

There are more, but I think you probably get the idea.  If you are a leader, the answers you seek are often inside you.  You will not find them in the detail of anyone’s position description.  You will not find them in complicated competency models that not even a super-hero could fulfill.  You will not find them in sophisticated performance evaluation processes.  They are available to you through your intrinsic sense of what is right and your willingness to listen to others and the collective voice of common sense.

What are your thoughts?  What articles have you read that speak to the value of common sense?  How might we build greater trust in the strength of our own wisdom?



Filed under Employee engagement, Leading Change, Self Knowledge, Wally Bock

3 responses to “Come Back Common Sense…We Need You!

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Come Back Common Sense…We Need You! « You’re Not the Boss of Me --

  2. For me, it’s not so much individual posts as particular writers. And, at the risk of sounding like fanboy, this is one of the blog I think radiates common sense.

  3. Gwyn Teatro

    Thank you, Wally, for your kind words.

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