On the surface, it’s about someone taking or having advantage if they have that bit more knowledge and insight than those around them. It doesn’t take a moment’s thought to recognise that this might put an individual in a position to take on a leadership role.
That saying comes from the early 16th century and a monk called Erasmus. He lived in Europe in challenging and troubled times. From the Netherlands in the north to the toe of Italy in the south and pretty well all of Europe east of France, formed a major empire made up of a federation of states. There was political, religious and philosophical change in the air.
To illustrate, we can pick up the story in 1521 with the Emperor Charles V presiding over a major assembly in the city of Worms. To the English reader, this assembly is perhaps memorable because it goes by the name the of “Diet of Worms” (diet meaning, an ‘assembly’ and ‘Worms’ being a place). On the agenda were questions about the running of the empire its governance and a certain religious reformer, Martin Luther.
Both Luther and Erasmus had been calling for reform. In Erasmus’ opinion, Luther had gone too far with his own reform agenda. Overall, calls for reform were driven by a complex brew of impacting factors. In contrast to Luther, Erasmus looked for a measured and managed approach, rather than radical change. His worry: that ill-considered, knee-jerk, change wouldn’t take account of the bigger picture and the major issues impacting on strategic change.
I am with Erasmus!
It seems to me that all too often there is the need for change in the way we operate and manage our on going development…a reform… in our own challenging and troubled times. Difficult as they may be, the methods of reform we deploy may be more problematic than the troubles and challenges we face. Whether in business or elsewhere, too often we deploy methods, models, conventions for development that are ill-conceived and no matter what motivates them won’t work, or won’t work anymore.
I like a distinction we can deploy in reflecting on change and reform. It’s about separating out common sense and what I call common convention. If you think about it, ‘common sense’ is something that is self-evidently always true, anywhere and always. What we call common sense is often actually just a convention, a habit or a way of seeing what we are used to.
It seems to me that so many of the methods and models deployed in business are just conventions (helpful or otherwise.) Although we might deploy them by habit, they don’t in themselves work, except in making us feel a bit better for using them.
Some years ago, I was responsible for asking this question, “What is a common sense approach to understanding the way decision are made?” This involved digging behind so many of the methods and models we are in the habit of using. In answering this question, I’ve had the privilege of developing a common sense approach to decision-making that can be applied in troubled and challenging times. I hope it is respectful to the conventions people very often depend on. However, I also hope it helps people ask another deeper questions that yields mature insights, opening up fresh opportunities. I like this phrase that frames my own hopes for this common sense approach, “That it enables people to both perceive and know the right decisions to take.”
I’d love to share more with you about this common sense approach. I have developed the SPICE Framework, which is a very simple graphics based approach for the far sighted through troubled and challenging times. You can read more about it at www.spiceframework.com.
Written by Michael Croft
September 30, 2020