To read this content please select one of the options below:

Level Three common sense

James G.S. Clawson (Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 3 April 2009




The purpose of this paper is to show that “common sense” is rooted in genetic and memetic legacies developed early in life and is not so common based on where those legacies were developed. To show that managers who are unable to review and adjust their common sense are not likely to be effective managers locally or globally.


The logic developed here is based on eclectic literature sources in psychology, anthropology, and management and from personal consulting activities all over the globe. The logic converges on the border between common and uncommon “sense” and reports data from sessions held in every quarter of the globe.


This discussion finds that much of management behavior is based on “common sense” that is neither accurate nor effective. For example, managers who focus on visible professional behavior and results at the expense of feel, which is common sense to most, may find their results to be, ironically, less than they could be.

Practical implications

Managers can learn to be more self aware particularly at “Level Three,” to understand better the bases for their own behavior and that of others and let go of commonly held non‐sensical assumptions about the way the business world operates. If they can, and the data suggests that most cannot, do this, they have a chance to develop a world‐class performing organization operating on a new and more functional “common sense.”


While many of the individual concepts and sources are not new, the convergence of logic on the importance of distinguishing between visible behavior, conscious thought and underlying values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations about the way the world is or should be and how those elements affect behavior is not widely nor commonly held “sense.” Hence, the links drawn in this discussion will likely be counter‐intuitive to the vast majority of managers. Examples of companies of all sizes who understand are introduced to ground the case made here.



Clawson, J.G.S. (2009), "Level Three common sense", Management Decision, Vol. 47 No. 3, pp. 470-480.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles