July 26, 2023 | Mark Paradies

Is Common Sense Enough to Find Root Causes?

Common Sense: Your Best Problem-Solving Tool?

I had someone tell me not too long ago that…

“All this root cause stuff is nonsense.
Common sense is all that someone needs to fix problems.”

I knew better than to take the bait. This person’s mind was made up, and nothing I could say would change it.

But I asked myself …

Why do we need more than common sense to solve problems?

What is Common Sense?

Let’s start with dictionary definitions of common sense…

  • sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  • sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence (Dictionary.com)
  • the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way (Cambridge Dictionary)

With the exception of the last definition, common sense seems to be something that most sensible people have without specialized training. The last definition implies that we NEED it – but may not always have it if we are unreasonable or unsafe.

Common Sense is NOT Enough

So, if common sense IS common, we shouldn’t have any problems left to investigate. Common sense (which is common) would have prevented them.

Why would common sense prevent problems? Because people without any specialized training could apply their practical, everyday knowledge to avoid problems. They would apply common sense, which is, by definition, common.

Thus, the fact that we frequently (or commonly) have problems proves that common sense is NOT enough to stop human errors and equipment failures – common incidents.

Thus, the first quote – “Common Sense is all we need to fix problems.” – is not correct because the problems prove that either common sense is not enough or that a majority of people don’t have common sense (common sense is uncommon).

Thus, we need the knowledge we don’t commonly have to help us solve problems.

What Knowledge Are We Missing?

We teach root cause analysis to tens of thousands of students each year. For years I asked this question at the start of the class:

“How many of you have had any type of human factors training?”

I explained that this was specialized training into why people made errors, sometimes called ergonomics.

In a normal class of about 25 people, maybe one or two people (maybe none) would raise their hand. I would estimate that about 4% of attendees responded they had at least some training in human factors. 96% had none. Then I asked them…

“How many of you have been asked to investigate a human error?”

Inevitably, almost everyone would raise their hand.

So before the training, everyone was asked to investigate human errors without specialized training to provide the knowledge they needed. Thus, their only weapon was common sense.

I can’t tell you how many times, after the course, I was told words to the effect of…

“I can’t believe I’ve got this far in my career without the knowledge
I learned in this course. This has completely changed the way I
will perform investigations and find the causes of human error.”

What Training Do Your Employees Need?

You might be wondering what course we were teaching that got such praise and changed the way people investigated human errors. The answer is simple.

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Training

TapRooT® Training is changing the way the world solves problems. And that’s why…

TapRooT® – Changing the Way the World Solves Problems

became our motto.

Why is TapRooT® Training special? Because we brought the uncommon knowledge needed to understand human error AND equipment failure and built it into an easy-to-use systematic process and software that makes performing investigations of serious problems (like fatalities or major quality issues) or precursor incidents (simple incidents that could have become more serious) reliable and repeatable.

Perhaps that’s why the CEO of a Fortune 100 corporation, after the first time he was presented with a TapRooT® investigation, said…

“I don’t know what TapRooT® is … but I like it.”

He said it was the most understandable investigation ever presented to him, and it went in-depth into the reasons for the problems – something other investigations failed to do.

Where Can You Find Out More About the TapRooT® System and TapRooT® Training?

First, you can read this white paper…


Second, you can read the TapRooT® Books.

Purchase them here…


Or perhaps the fastest way to learn is to attend one of our TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Courses.


CLICK HERE to see the upcoming public course dates and locations.

Or CLICK HERE to contact us for a quote for a course at your site.

No matter how you choose to learn, get started soon. Common sense isn’t enough, and lives and your company’s future are at stake. You need to apply the best root cause analysis system to get consistent, excellent results.

Courses & Training, Human Performance, Root Cause Analysis Tips
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