Once in a while I have a little rant. This one happened in 2010 but, in my observation anyway, it continues to have some relevance and so I offer it as a re-rant. Don’t worry. It’s a short one…probably the best kind.
Oliver Wendell Holmes has been credited with saying; “Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man’s upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor.
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…)
Like me, you may have read this passage and nodded reverently at its wisdom. 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, intractable thinking and rules that serve only to strangle growth and creativity
But, in the midst of this rather gloomy outlook, there is hope. 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 or stereotypes 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.
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.
That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?