The Curse of Common Sense

I always react skeptically when I hear people say, ‘it’s only common sense.’ As if the topic of conversation is both true and well-accepted.

When you default to ‘common sense’ thinking, that’s when your organization’s problems begin. Common sense becomes a justification for not challenging assumptions. It perpetuates the status quo and stands as a bulwark against change.

Common sense? Why on earth would you waste your time researching and purchasing flights online when a travel agent will do it for you? (Speed, options, control. Think Travelocity.) Why on earth would you buy shoes online when the fit and feel of a shoe is so important? (Convenience, selection, easy returns. Think Zappos.)

Context is everything. ‘We tried that and it didn’t work.’ OK, but why? Because the idea was flawed or because you didn’t align people, processes and systems to make it work? ‘That’s not how things are done in our industry.’ OK, that means there’s an opportunity to do things differently, and potentially better.

Many organizations have defied so-called common sense and have won. Don’t believe me? Ever paid five bucks for a cup of coffee at Starbucks?

The point isn’t to always defy common sense. It’s to recognize that common sense is often neither.

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