Sometimes, you can improve your thinking just by avoiding using certain terms. I stopped using “best practice”, years ago. When I am tempted to use the term in a serious discussion of methodology, I am forced to use an alternative, and that alternative is always superior.
It’s just like giving up the use of the goto statement. I feel free to use it when I program, but I find that I almost always have a better option available.
Two other terms I have stopped using are “intuition” and “common sense.” Here’s why:
I understand “intuition” to mean the mysterious source of ideas that have no other apparent source. When I say that I used my intuition to solve a problem, I feel like it’s code for saying that I don’t have any idea how I solved the problem. To ascribe something to intuition, however, gives the impression of explaining it, even though nothing has been explained. What we call intuition is exactly the same thing we used to call divine inspiration. The Gods gave me that idea!
I understand “common sense” to be a skill or skill set (and to some extent knowledge) that we assume everyone has, and therefore everyone can simply employ it to solve the problem at hand. If everyone can solve the problem, then there’s no reason to worry about the problem or the solution. To invoke common sense is to banish both problem and solution to obscurity.
In both these cases, the terms are often used as opiates, to dull or stall discussion. Strangely enough, I hear the terms invoked most often in the midst of arguments that where the supposedly commonsense or intuitive issue is, in fact, the subject of the dispute: the very existence of the discussion proves that at least one person doesn’t share that sense in common or share that intuition. In situations like that, invoking common sense or intuition is just another way of saying “if you disagree with me, you must be crazy.”
That leads to this subtitle heuristic: “Intuition” and “Common Sense” really means “I have no idea what’s going on, or at any rate, I won’t respond to your questions about it.”
(I’ve come to a point where I prefer to admit that I don’t have a clue, in those situations where I really don’t have a clue. I feel better being open about that. I feel dirty when I dish out explanatives rather than come to grips with a subject. Besides, I risk being exposed as a fool. Few things feel worse to me than being exposed. My favorite defense against exposure is to avoid enclosing anything important to begin with.)
Fortunately, I’ve found that I do have some idea what’s going on. I usually can cite a heuristic or a pattern that offers some insight. And I’m getting better with practice.