Marketing Eye

Why common sense is hard to find

Common sense is not so common. The older I get the more I realise the truth to this statement.

Lately, I am getting more and more frustrated about the lack of common sense amongst the young, and today I realised that perhaps I am being a tad unfair. Gen-Y are not apt at using common sense particularly when it comes to business. I find myself constantly pulling my hair out when I hear and see things that they do, because I just don't get it. I don't understand how something so basic can be forgotten, not thought about or completely ignored. 

But am I being unfair. Often its things that they have been trained on, and they just constantly forget a process or sometimes its just when a client or supplier asks a question that has an obvious answer (at least to me) and they just don't get it.

Ignoring my #24yrold and #24yroldblackguy (the latter is his own hash tag - not mine!), I find myself constantly getting irritated at the lack of common sense in the typical Gen-Y. They are the exception and I have never found myself to be having "the conversation" with them.

#24yrold says "you are born with it".

With lots of thought given to this problem as it seems to be the only issue I face in the office these days, I realise that perhaps its actually mine. In general, I have had 10 years to hone my skills to ensure that I think before I act, and based on experience, minimize errors. I cross all my "T's" and dot all of my "i's" - if you know what I mean.

The question is, what is common sense? To me it is not another kind of knowledge, nor is it a simple cognitive process or ability. My common sense tells me that is as complex as the factors inherent in a situation to which it may be applied.

Common sense is a practical view and approach to a situation. It is how we deal with issues and problems, how we manage our own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and how we cope with each other.

“Common sense is not so common.” ― VoltaireA Pocket Philosophical Dictionary

But common sense in the workplace is not just an issue for me, but for many bosses, colleagues and business leaders. Getting to the root of things, to ensure that you minimize over managing staff or bringing to their attention a "lack of common sense".

It's a common problem for TYPE - A personalities because we "expect" everyone to be like us - and then get frustrated when people miss the little things that make perfect sense to us.

I do think common sense is a two-way street. You have to work with employees to ensure that they have  been trained throughly in every step of their job, so that there is no excuse, and make sure it is practiced over and over again. Give them training exercises that push them to think outside the box and solve problems.

“Things do not change; we change.” ― Henry David Thoreau

But common sense is much more than problem solving.  It also involves taking a sensible perspective, having functional attitudes and beliefs,  being able to tackle a range of problems, getting on with people when it matters, grasping anothers’ perspective, knowing and using emotions appropriately, not losing sight of the goal, being flexible and adaptable with a sufficient range of behaviours to match the job.

“Don't find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain” ― Henry Ford


Is there an answer to this conundrum? I am not so sure that there is an answer, and like many of my counterparts I believe that time can be the best solution for those who may lack it in their earlier lives, but through experience and a few 'hard knocks', find that they learn how to improve their ability to use common sense in a variety of different situations.

“Common sense is the most widely shared commodity in the world, for every man is convinced that he is well supplied with it.” ― René Descartes

Never one to let things fall to the way-side, I am now going to start working on my own techniques of coaching staff how to use common sense in all aspects of life and think before they act. Let's see how I go.



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comment ( 1 )
  • Brad
    27 Feb 2014

    I spent three years as the owner of membership massages spas that employed fifty #20-#30 year olds. I hired each one personally, and knew that for the most part they were smart, engaging individuals, with good work ethics. But without exception, EVERY SINGLE DAY of the week, there was a fire to be put out, for no other reason than "a lack of common sense." I am talking mind blowing mistakes. Mistakes that I couldn't even get mad about because they were so absurd; that the ONLY conclusion I could intellectually grasp, was that there had to be "more to the story." Stuff like showing a customer our price list. Telling one client that we moved their appointment to accommodate a "big spender." My frustration gradually turned to inward, and I concluded that I was completely incapable of HR, and promptly farmed it out to a very reputable agency.

    Nothing changed. But I became obsessed- because the "lack of common sense" was "the" event each day, that made work anything but great. I spent every evening, on the 20 minute drive home, dedicated to solving what was the root of this behavior. Was I like this as a #25 year old and did not realize it?

    My personal epiphany came unexpectedly one day when I witnessed my super star manager, a #26 year old, tell her fiancee of the last 14 months, that that wedding was off 8 days prior. The guy had "no clue" was about to unfold. She loved him- but could not marry him. And how did this seemingly emotional, gut wrenching, and heart breaking, event unfold?

    A text message. And way less the 140 characters.

    I realized that what while my generation (myself very much included- a now #45 year old), has gloried, greatly prospered, and built careers and companies off the digital and technology advances. But that in turn, created a generation who rarely writes in fill sentences, has NEVER sent a hand written note to someone to show gratitude, and probably has not, and will not, ever get the opportunity to learn critical business skills by the time tested route of "watching first and foremost, and then emulating."

    My first job out of college, I went to work for a Fortune 100 company and was placed in a management training program. I got the job as an assistant to the CEO of the entire company (gloried coffee boy). I am sure I was "green, awkward, and lacking a lot of common sense. But in 1991, cell phones were rare, and email and hashtags did not exist. It was face to face. And each time that CEO went down the hall to see the VP of marketing or the VP of manufacturing, I was was right there on his heels. And as we went to each meeting day after day, he mentored me. For two years, I didn't get to say much, especially the in the meetings, but by the time I did, I was ready.

    Those days are probably gone. We have increased productivity fivefold, because as owners, we do not get up and walk down the halls. We send emails, texts and tweets. And the average #26 year old, cognoscente of it or not, is sitting at their desk, liking the hashtags just the way they are.