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Common sense


Most managers if asked, and individuals in other areas, would probably say that they know how to handle situations based upon their experience.

This often comes over as ‘it is just common sense’.
This phrase is often used in a derogatory manner, implying that the person they are referring to does not have their intelligence to apply this ‘common sense’.

Common sense is everywhere

The big problem with common sense is that everyone has got it as everyone has some experiences on which to base a judgement.
Common sense’s biggest problem is that it is ‘common’.

To the person putting forward his or her view of common sense it is absolutely valid.
This ‘common sense’ based on experience leads to a vague approach to a problem which may be valid in one situation and not in another.
It will have no consistency.

A more scientific method is required.
A more rigorous approach will find underlying causes by asking ‘why’ rather than just accepting the situation as is the case for ‘common sense’.

Throughout history ‘common sense’ has told us one thing, only to be proved wrong by science later.
The classic example of this is ‘the flat earth’ theorists.

Experience is good but it can only go so far.
A methodical scientific approach will give you more accurate information based upon experiment.

“If it ain’t broke!”

Most of us feel that we have plenty to do in a day as it is.
Time is precious (see The Complete Time Management package).
So, you won’t be surprised to know that the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a very popular one.

This attitude may serve you well if you take the approach that the way you are behaving currently is great and can not get any better.
You might also adapt this philosophy if time constraints only motivate you to deal with ‘problems’ as you see them for the immediate future.

If something “Ain’t broke!” then you can assume it works… but why?
There are plenty of good reasons for taking this attitude.

  • Your solution may work but may be inefficient.
  • If you know why something works you may be able to apply the principle elsewhere to good effect.
  • Seeking knowledge of ‘why?’ it works may uncover important issues you were unaware of.
  • What may appear to be a good solution may be a stop gap measure until a more serious fault materialises.

For example, you may have a computer issue that continually requires that you correct it.
If this takes just 1 minute to correct each day you may feel you can live with it so you don’t do anything about it.
However, you may realise, after asking ‘why?’, that you can permanently solve the situation but it would take you 1 hour.
You end up saving 6 hours of your time each year!

It this sort of simple calculation that improves the motivation to implement a solution.

“I have a solution!”

The ideal solution for any problem will be a permanent cure.
If you can identify an issue but don’t ask why it occurs most of your solutions will be merely stop gap measures.
Suggesting a series of solutions based upon either no information or weak experience alone may prove detrimental in the long run.

As we have seen before (see New May Not Be Good), there are three parts to any behaviour.

  1. The circumstances prior to the behaviour.
  2. The behaviour itself.
  3. The consequence of that behaviour.

Understanding, not only part 1 but in particular parts 2 and 3 will prove extremely important.
That is, what will improve the motivation of people.