Trigger Questions

How sensible is your common sense?

Trigger Question #149 — reading time: about 1.6 minutes

Is your common sense now the same as then?

. . .

Let’s admit it. We like to say that we have common sense and that we practice common sense. After all, the definitions of common sense make it sound that having it is good for us. And the more of it we have, the better.

(Wikipedia explains common sense to be “sound, practical judgement concerning everyday matters.” And Merriam-Webster defines it as “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.”)

Yes, I agree, common sense is good for you. Even at work. Because it can help you speed up decision-making.

But there’s a catch. Its very common-ness.

Common means that many people shared it. If not quite all of us.

How does common sense become common? By being based on the familiar history, on the shared past, of the people who contribute to the conventional sense. (Read it again. It does make sense.)

The problem, especially at work, is that we don’t question our common sense. It being common, we accept it as factual and fitting.

Which is why common sense is one small step away from groupthink.

(Groupthink is the tendency of group members, us, to take decisions uncritically and without due thought, particularly when powerful members of the group recommend the decisions. Meaning that we commonly agree with the strongest common sense among us.)

But here’s the real kicker. Because common sense is based on our past, on our history, it doesn’t always make sense today. (Look around you, does the present really resemble the past?)

I think Albert Einstein was spot on when he said, “Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind prior to the age of eighteen.” (Actually, as paraphrased by the journalist Lincoln Barnett in 1948.)

So, be careful, be very careful, when you rely on common sense at work.

And if you still believe that common sense has much sense to offer you, then at least do what Einstein, apparently, recommended:

Reappraise your common sense constantly.

. . .

Welcome to my side of the trigger divide.