Nonsense At Work

#935: The smarter your phone, the dumber you are

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protect-from-joyDid you know that the smarter your phone, the dumber you are? I didn’t know that either until I made it up. Even though I made it up, I suspect there is some truth in it.

The more we rely on technology, the less we bother to think for ourselves. The less we think, the more our ability to reason withers away. The less we reason, the more we blindly rely on technology. The more we trust technology, the less often we do basic sanity checks. Without basic sanity checks, errors creep in, mistakes happen and failure follows.

Not so long ago technology was held in check by a skeptical generation. I once watched an older boss add a budget column with a calculator, frown, and check the result by adding the column mentally. He would never have blindly steered wherever his GPS instructed.

Do I have a smart phone? Of course!


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#934: Please pass on the leadership mantle in better shape

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lightness-spiritIn the good old days I had a company car. Company cars have magical properties. They go much faster than normal cars; they reverse faster, brake harder, and jump obstacles easier. The list goes on.

Except, that is, the company car I was given. It wasn’t the car’s fault, nor the company’s fault, nor my mother’s fault, as Freud would have it. It was my father’s fault.

My father taught me from an early age to look after my possessions. Fair enough. But there is more. He made it clear that if I borrowed anything from anyone, I should give it back in better condition than I received it. No wonder my company car lost its magical abilities.

I know this is a leap, but I wonder whether magic would happen if leaders aimed to pass on the mantle they borrowed in better shape than they received it.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#933: Failure comes from delegating what you dislike

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president-precedentWhat part of your job do you dislike? And what part do you delegate? How much overlap is there between what you dislike and what you delegate?

I once consulted to a CEO brought in to manage a turnaround. We had to be careful about what we could delegate and what we had to do ourselves. Unavoidably, a number of people had to go. The CEO would not delegate this task. He disliked doing it, which is why he would not ask anyone else to do it.

Often the parts of your job that you dislike are the pieces you should not delegate because they matter to your role, they determine your success, or because others know that it is cowardly to delegate that which you dislike doing.

Collective success is more likely if you have the discipline to delegate not what you dislike, but what others can do better than you.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#932: Why we the insecure are led by bravados on display

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emotional-intelligenceWhat do we value in a leader? Surely, we want a leader who presents himself like a leader, who makes it clear who is in charge, who makes her voice heard, who has energy and drive.

However, if you analyze those characteristics carefully, you will realize how similar ‘presents like a leader’ is to ‘ego on a pedestal’, how similar ‘in charge’ is to ‘need for control’, how similar ‘making voice heard’ is to ‘poor listener’, and how similar ‘energy and drive’ is to ‘impatience with others’.

There is a fine line between what we think a leader should be and what is mere bravado on display. The line is so fine that I am no longer surprised by how often we are led by the obviously insecure. After all, we are attracted to leaders who reflect what we unconsciously are. And it is thus that we create leaders in our own image.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#931: Fragile economies happen when we buy shares of a company, without sharing an interest in the company

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PartBeingPaidIf a portion of the cost of my lottery ticket goes to schools, then I can say that I invest in education. After the drawing, win or lose, my share is back to zero.

That’s how stock markets now function, or so it seems. We buy shares to be sold if the price is up and to be sold when it is down.

Shareholding no longer reflects our interest in a company and its affairs. It reflects our short-term interest in its short-term share price.

Time was when shareholders went to the harbor to see their ship sail and to see if it came in. Not so long ago we funded a venture because we were interested in the business. Our share was actually called an “interest.”

Our economy will remain fragile as long as we buy shares of a company, without sharing an interest in the company.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.

© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#930: When the time is right, demand the possible from the competent

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mirror-betterThere are two basic ways to motivate followers – make them stretch or make them reach.

Most proffered wisdom seems to favor stretch. Make goals big and hairy, make followers sweat and worry, so that they will be motivated to deliver their best. Indeed, but they will be worn out nervous wrecks.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery offers a different approach. In his book “The Little Prince”, a king explains that he has a right to expect obedience because his orders are reasonable and because he requires “from each one the duty which each one can perform.” His other trick is to give instructions only when they can actually be obeyed and executed.

Some leaders do succeed by setting impossible stretch goals. But they tend to be one-hit leaders. Consistently successful leaders enable followers to reach sensible goals by demanding, when the time is right, the possible from the competent.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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