The Lost Art of Common Sense in the Workplace: How Agile Principles and Emotional Intelligence Can Help

The 18th century writer François-Marie Arouet, better known by his nom de plume - Voltaire, once famously remarked; "Common sense is not so common." In today's fast-paced world, where change is the only constant, common sense seems to be in short supply. It would be great if it were as simple as “take one of these and call me in the morning.” However, much more is in play.


Common sense can be defined as practical knowledge and understanding gained through life experience, observation, and reasoning. People with common sense often have quick and appropriate responses to situations and problems, while those who lack it may seem naive and clueless. In this modern world, people have access to all sorts of information, yet common sense appears to be rarer than ever. Why?


1. Over-reliance on Technology

With smartphones and the internet, we have access to unlimited information on just about every topic. While technology has made life easier, it has also led to an over-reliance on it. Many people have outsourced their thinking and reasoning abilities to their devices. The reliance on technology has made people less reliant on their intuition and sense of logic. They have become more inclined to believe everything they read online without taking the time to think critically and discern for themselves whether it's true or not.


2. The Approach to Education

In many ways, our education systems are partly to blame for the absence of common sense. The education system focuses on teaching students how to memorize and excel in exams. Even many professional licenses and certifications are awarded based upon passing exams that lack emphasis on teaching critical thinking and practical problem-solving skills. Many people pass these exams without ever developing the necessary life skills needed in the modern world.


3. Lack of Life Experience

Another factor that affects the development of common sense is the lack of real-life experience. The growth of social media has made it easier for people to stay within the confines of their comfort zones, limiting their interactions to a small circle of people who may think and act in similar ways. This lack of exposure to different situations that involve varying challenges and solutions is a significant contributor to the lack of common sense.


4. Narcissism

Self-absorption and the obsession with personal freedoms have also contributed to the lack of common sense in our modern society. People are more interested in what they believe and what they want than what is reasonable or sensible. They view certain authority as untrustworthy and unwise, which makes them ignorant of the importance of common sense.


5. A Culture of Instant Gratification

In today's society, we are accustomed to instant gratification in all aspects of our lives. We want quick and easy solutions to our problems, and we don't always think through the consequences of our choices. This can lead to impulsive decisions that are not always based on common sense. We also may lose sight of the value of hard work and perseverance, which are essential qualities for developing common sense.


6.Isolationism

Another issue that has affected common sense is the development of siloed thinking in many companies and industries. People have lost the broader thinking abilities to solve problems outside their area of expertise. This limited thinking has led to a lack of common sense in other areas of life.


Call To Action

Given the aforementioned, common sense - the ability to navigate complex situations and make sound decisions based on logic, reason, and experience is becoming increasingly rare in the modern workforce. However, it is essential for the growth and success of any company. How can common sense be saved, reinitiated, rejuvenated in todays workplace?

In part, it will call for incorporating agile principles in a company’s culture which involves rethinking traditional processes. Rather than relying on rigid structures and hierarchies, agile emphasizes flexibility and innovation, as well as team empowerment.  An agile approach allow teams to work collaboratively and establish a continuous feedback cycle, which enables them to identify and fix problems as they arise. This helps the team to evolve and adapt to new challenges and situations that arise. Companies develop critical thinkers to enhance its collective common sense by empowering teams of responsible individuals with autonomy. This will lead to a culture of accountability, which ensures that everyone in the organization is focused on achieving the company's goals. The result is a workforce that is better equipped to respond to changing business needs while being more customer-centric.

Emotional intelligence - the ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotions, understand them, and use them to guide thinking and behavior - is a critical factor in fostering common sense. It is about being self-aware, empathetic, and effectively communicating with others, even when emotions run high. Individuals with high emotional intelligence have the capacity to remain rational and objective even in the face of difficult situations. This gives them a better chance of making common-sense decisions, which involves respect and values that transcend cultural norms and experiences. By implementing Emotional Intelligence assessments and coaching, organizations can teach staff how to communicate effectively, listen actively, be empathetic, and develop self-awareness. This fosters the develop of common sense by managing stressful situations appropriately, having optimism, remaining objective by seeing things as they really are, articulate your understanding of another's perspective and behaving in a way that respects others' feelings.

Employing agile principles and emotional intelligence to reinvigorate common sense in the workplace (and dare we say in the personal lives of individuals) can effectively combat over-reliance on technology, flaws in how we typically are educated, lack of experience, narcissistic traits, the need for instant gratification and siloed thinking.  At the very least, the collective common-sense of your teams can be positively impacted.


The loss of common sense in the modern workplace is a problem we can solve. By taking a holistic approach to implementing agile principles and emotional intelligence, we can create a positive working environment and culture that encourages people to use their common sense and critical thinking skills to solve the challenges that businesses face today.  Ultimately, effective utilization of these principles paves the way for a brighter future, where the use of common sense is no longer the exception but the norm.

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