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When common sense died . . .

24 Oct 11
Michelle Cubas
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So many meaningful articles are focused on ideas that used to be known as “Common Sense.” It may be common to one generation and not another. Here is an example on innovation. Sound contemporary advice founded on what the Silent Generation already knew!
Consider the American Revolutionary, Thomas Paine, who wrote a pamphlet with that title. His effort to stir the Colonists to oppose British rule was successful because it spoke in “plain language,” everyone could understand and he inspired the readers.
Every generation must define what Common Sense means to them. In the world of social media, abbreviations have become the common language that baffles older folks. However, Common Sense exceeds a simple definition of words.

In my universe, Common Sense is a method of thinking something through to include the impact of the action or words. It relates to timing. It is not just stating the obvious. It opposes short-sightedness. 
Consider the recent statement of Bank of America’s CEO, Brian Moynihan, who said he has a right to make a profit for his company. Is this view one that advances good will or positive presence in the marketplace? 
If he was my client, I would “play back” his response and watch his body language. My guess is he would cringe when he heard his words played back and he could hear them outside his internal voice. We would dig deep to get to what he really meant and craft a new comment in Plain English. We could discuss how it matters what people think, especially when they feel robbed and cheated with the threat of rising fees! 

I would remind Mr. Moynihan about Peter Drucker’s business wisdom about the purpose of business—to create a customer—and, how his focus on profits makes him appear cold and greedy. Also, I would show him how he can drive away his existing customers with his lack of sensitivity that will ultimately cost him money he so dearly protects. A dose of Common Sense would have served Brian.

So,  Common Sense can be a business tool to test a message before broadcasting it:
  1. The unintended consequences of statements made, for example, by politicians and business tycoons, are more powerful than ever because of the speed and repetition of digital media.
  2. Words matter and stand the test of time (and You Tube video!).
  3. Select words that support your meaning rather than have you appear out of touch with the moment. Consider Eric Cantor’s use of the word, “mob”, to describe the Occupy Wall Street participants. Given a do-over, I bet he would choose a different word like “protesters.” See how less inflammatory that word is?
  4. Above all, say what you mean. Ask for what you want. Double talk and hyper-speak turn people off. (Consider the usage of “utilize” when “use” is the accurate word.)
  5. Earn the trust of your audience by being authentic and accurate. The “fact checkers” on news channels and interview programs must have migraine headaches with the tsunami of misinformation pounding us everyday.
  6. Avoid clichés. They muddy meaning because Gen Y does not get the older references, for example.
  7. Offer your audience a message that helps them align with what you are seeking.
  8. Avoid motivating by fear—it is negative and short-term. You will be forever associated with it, too.
  9. Listen to generations different than your own. They “hear” things differently.
  10. Align your actions with your words. Generation Y is watching and they despise phonies—have your word mean something.

Now, go and inspire someone with your ideas. There is so much work to be done. mc

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