Overcomplication of Uncomplications: Leadership and Common Sense

There was a piece in last Saturday’s NY Times Business section that caught my eye – it was about an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review about managers and intuition.

The authors theorized that managers can improve their intuition over time, and explained how it could be done.

Here was their key statement:

Intuition is “not a magical sixth sense or a paranormal process. Rather, intuition is a highly complex and highly developed form of reasoning that is based on years of experience and learning and on facts, patterns, concepts, procedures and abstractions stored in one’s head.”

I reduce this down to two words:

Common Sense

To me, it’s really not that complicated – the sound application of common sense is the best “intuitive” action any leader can demonstrate. I would argue that this trait isn’t necessarily related to years and years of experience – it’s more of a discipline that, if ingrained early in one’s development as a leader, can set the foundation for a long career in good decision making.

The authors go on to warn us about a reliance on “intuition”:

“Like any good thing, a reliance on intuition can be taken to extremes. Executives should reflect on their intuitive decisions before they execute them.”

In their view, intuition and reflection are two different processes. The way I see it, in the application of common sense, this “step back” is always part of the process.

(I wrote about this on a guest post on Perfectly Petersen back in July, entitled “One Step Back to a Better World“)

Perhaps I am oversimplifying all of this, but I truly believe that the consistent application of good ‘ol common sense is the most important facet of good leadership.

And that’s as uncomplicated as it can get. And a bit more comprehensible to boot.

Comments

  1. Trevor Gay says

    Hi Terry – Great post. Unsurprisingly I agree with you completely. As you know my whole leadership and management beliefs are about making things simple. There is so much rubbish written that over complicates what we all know is common sense. Why do we have to turn everything into some complex academic argument?

  2. Terrence Seamon says

    When I read this:

    “Rather, intuition is a highly complex and highly developed form of reasoning that is based on years of experience and learning and on facts, patterns, concepts, procedures and abstractions stored in one’s head.” “

    …I had to laugh. Does that really say anything?

    I agree with you and Trevor. Keep it simple.

    Terry

  3. Terry Starbucker says

    Hi Trevor and Terry – thanks, as always, for stopping by.

    It sounds like the three of us are certainly on the same page – complexity: bad, simplicity: good!

    I know it’s not celebrated on the other side of the pond, but Happy Thanksgiving to you both!

    All the best.

  4. Anonymous says

    I suggest that common sense is a simpler, less sophisticated form of intuition. I don’t think they are the same thing.

    Once one has some common sense, which generally begins as a youngster, they can develop a good sense of intuition as they face more complex patterns, concepts etc. and apply their common snese.

  5. Terry Starbucker says

    Anonymous, thanks for your comment; as is always the case on this blog, all points of view are welcomed, for that is the essence of good conversation. All the best!

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