Uncommon Sense

Over on Tom Peters' blog he poses an interesting question under the heading:

Hiring criteria.

Are there enough people on your payroll who "lack common sense"?

It's an interesting twist. Common sense would seem to be a desirable trait, isn't it? The antithesis of stupidity. Or is it?

There are other expressions that have an insidiously stultifying effect, for example: Curiosity killed the cat. That's a doozy. In fact curiosity dragged mankind out of the quagmire of the dark ages. Society is ambivalent about breaking ranks but it is essential for anything new to happen. Somebody has to be dissatisfied with how things are now and apply their curiosity and inquiry to the problem.

That said, I found it remarkable how many of my design students at Massey University utterly rejected my assertion that their mission in life should be constantly question how and why things were done, how things would be different if they tried to do things wrong, counter-intuitively and playfully. I didn't want to see another submission in the conventional, prevailing style of the day, not matter how pleasing and decorative it was. The superficial application of style is the bane of communications in all of its forms.

Yesterday I was privileged to spend some time with Martin Lambie-Nairn, probably the leading thinker and practitioner in the world of brand identity, particularly for television channels. He pioneered a new way of thinking that dismissed the flying logo and chaotic diversity of many on-screen identities. He spoke with my colleagues and I about his experiences with the BBC and O2. By turns he is funny, wise and very very clear about what he has learned in his career. If nothing else, his emphasis on clarity and simplicity of message, based on focused insights, was a timely reminder for a couple of projects I am working on.

It would seem to be common sense…after all.


  1. How does the old saying go? The only problem with common sense is it isn't very common.


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