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Conventional wisdom is a throw away term that gives leaders a false sense of security.

It lulls executives into, at best, faulty analysis and, at worst, it produces a career limiting decision.  Only when conventional wisdom victims are packing up their offices under the watchful eye of corporate security do they realize that conventional wisdom is seldom right.

Born of our own biases, experiences and rooted in that other dangerous business term, common sense, conventional wisdom is just a snapshot of previous events, successes and mistakes in which our memory of the successes are expanded and the mistakes are distorted.  Filled with misplaced confidence, these recollections produce for leaders an inviting mirage in a scorching desert.

Business consultant-author-speaker Aubrey Daniels writes that he is on a campaign to stamp out common sense in business.  He believes there is too much reliance on a concept that Webster defines as "the unreflective opinions of ordinary people," and that these "unreflective opinions are based on unanalyzed experience." He quotes the late Edward Deming, quality guru extrodinaire, who believed that experience teaches us nothing.  "If experience teaches us anything, why are we in such a mess?" Deming liked to ask.

I think we need to treat conventional wisdom for what it is: the poor and unreliable cousin of common sense.

© John Gregory Self, 2010


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