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Common sense is important for lots of reasons. It can replace data and other forms of evidence; in real estate, some of the evidence that you would like to use to make an evidence-based decision does not exist. Research has also shown that poor judgment is depressingly common; in real estate, it is easy to find examples of decisions which would cause most people to scratch their heads and say “what were you thinking?!!”

Saying the something is “important” is a start, but does not suggest a way forward.

Studying common sense at a university is useful, perhaps for surprising reasons. First, because academics are supposed to have lost their common sense, as may be evident in research studies which seem to repackage common sense as mumbo-jumbo so thoroughly that “silly” cannot be distinguished from “sensible”. Second, because even if universities teach lots of technical and subtle ideas, one should not forget that lots of learning occurs outside of classes.

When recruiting new students, I chat with high school students about what is learned at university and with their parents about what was learned after university. The parents tend to like a quote repeated by many people: “Good judgement comes from experience and experience is usually the result of a bad judgement.” Or, as one recent guest speaker mentioned to me, “I think [common sense] truly doesn’t come until a mistake (big or little) gets played out. … As a parent, I pray for little mistakes that can be easily corrected vs. the biggy ones!”

Common sense is surprisingly actually hard to get and (for more experienced people) keep. Common sense does not come in a package or a pill.

I think that there is little evidence of common sense for at least three reasons based on different meanings of the phrase “common sense”. First, given the many people who make simple mistakes, it is not “common” as in ordinary. Second, I read one Psychology textbook which noted that psychology seems like common sense, after the idea has been explained: i.e. it is not “common” when needed. Third, even if an idea is common sense when discussed in a class for the first time, too many people do not recognize the same idea the second time they see it or when it is disguised or when it is given a new label. So, it often appears to be special.

My first bit of practical advice is to be aware. Mistakes are unavoidable and, hopefully, you do not have to repeat a mistake to learn from it. That attitude is also good Science (which is part of a university’s contribution to society).

Offering more advice that is relevant to the real estate industry represents a paradox: the reason which makes “common sense” worth knowing also makes it difficult to communicate. The nature of the real estate business, as indicated by the Six Big Ideas, differs from some other businesses in that the necessary tasks can vary in so many ways (depending on the people or the situation or …). Thus, they are unlikely to be codified into any kind of computer algorithm.

So, understanding what “common sense” means plus how to convey it to others is a work in progress. Please stay tuned.

PA

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