Common sense may not be so common after all

Thoughts on the elusive common sense, and why leaders need to redefine ‘common sense’ within their teams


Last month, a project missed its deadline in a high-performing company known for its cutting-edge expertise. The team overlooked a basic step, so elementary that it wasn’t even listed in the project plan — it was just common sense. The oversight was costly, not just in terms of time but in terms of the client’s trust. This incident isn’t unique. In an era where we pride ourselves on the accessibility of information and education, the lapse of common sense is not just surprising; it’s a paradox of our time. With nearly a decade of experience and a few years in the leadership role, I’ve grappled with this question, only to realise that what we consider common sense is often a casualty of our diverse and information-saturated world.

I’ve always been a firm believer that common sense is indeed a common trait found in most people. After all, it’s in the name, right? It’s something that we should all inherently possess, like an intuitive understanding of the world around us. However, my belief has been baffled over the last few years as I engage with more and more individuals at the workplace and otherwise. 

I somehow couldn’t accept the lack of common sense among individuals at every level. My belief was further challenged by a client’s praise, as she commended my common sense and confidence, describing them as endearing qualities. Although her kind words came after a successful event, I found myself briefly puzzled, wondering why someone would compliment me for possessing common sense—a quality that many would consider commonplace. It led me to question how such attributes make me stand out when they are seemingly inherent in most of us.

But my perspective shifted recently when I stumbled upon a video on leadership, and the speaker was none other than one of India’s greatest leaders and my personal favourite, MS Dhoni. As the former captain of the Indian cricket team, MS Dhoni has undoubtedly encountered his fair share of challenges and responsibilities. In this video, he shared a revelation that instantly resonated with me. He said, “There is nothing called common sense.” Those words struck a chord because they captured a realisation I had arrived at through my own experiences.

You see, as a leader, it’s only natural to assume that certain things are understood, and therefore, don’t need to be explicitly communicated. After all, we think, “Isn’t this common knowledge?” But here’s where the misconception lies — what’s evident to one person may not be so for another. The notion that common sense is a shared trait that should require no explanation doesn’t hold up in a team environment.

In a team, diversity is a given. Different people bring distinct perspectives, backgrounds and ways of thinking. What may seem obvious to one individual may be entirely foreign to another. This is where the importance of effective communication comes into play. As a leader, you’re responsible for ensuring that every team member understands what’s expected and why it’s essential.

While there will inevitably be a few team members who react with, “Why is she even saying this? It’s so common,” it’s essential to remember that your communication isn’t directed at them. It’s not for the ones who can quickly figure things out but for those who may need a bit more guidance. It’s a reminder that in the vast spectrum of knowledge and comprehension, we can’t assume that everyone resides at the same point.

In the spirit of MS Dhoni’s insights, it is time for us as leaders to redefine ‘common sense’ within our teams. Let’s commit to clear, inclusive communication that leaves no room for doubt. I challenge you to identify one assumption of ‘common sense’ in your team this week and address it head-on. By doing so, we not only prevent misunderstandings but also build a foundation of trust and mutual respect.

The author Prerna Dalakoti is a PR Professional

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