Nonsense At Work

Posts in category Effectiveness

#936: Not taking a decision is always a lack of courage

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DecisionsHave you ever wondered why decisions take so long in your organization? I know, I know, the obvious answer is a lack of information. Actually, that is the common excuse.

Here are the two real reasons. The first one is a lack of courage. Consider the difference between making and taking a decision. Making a decision is the whole process of reaching a point where you are ready to take the decision. When you take something, it’s yours. So, once you take a decision, you own it. Whereas if you are making a decision, well, you could stretch it out indefinitely.

The other reason has to do with the hierarchy of power and authority. The steeper the pyramid, the more people get involved in a decision, which is simply another way of spreading the risk and the blame.

Oh, you’re right. That’s also just a lack of courage.


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

#916: Periodically pull the plug to wipe your life

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silenceWhat happens when your electrical circuit is overloaded? It cuts out. What happens when your computer overheats? It shuts down. And when your hard drive is full? It stops saving.

That’s how we should cope with information overload. Periodically pull the plug, reboot and start with a clean sheet, a clean disk and a clean inbox.

What do you do when you have too many emails, too many text messages, too many articles saved to read later? You don’t cut out, shut down or stop saving, do you?

Unlike your gadgets, you would feel guilty. And you would worry that you missed something important.

Trust me, if it was important, the universe or your boss will make sure that you find out.

And if you want to blame me for that, please note that I have wiped my emails, my voice mail, my text messages, and probably my life.


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

#914: To focus and relax you must have “brain in, brain out”

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tantrumMy wife is teaching yoga again. One of her refrains is “brain in; brain out.” Actually, she says “breathe in; breathe out”, but I hear “brain in; brain out.” Here’s why.

The focus on yoga breathing helps to keep the mind present to facilitate correct movement. In other words, yoga teaches you to multi-task – to be aware of your breathing while your body is doing weird things. (Obviously, breathing in feeds oxygen to muscles; breathing out expels wastes and toxins.)

I apply the same idea to using my brain – “brain in” when I need to focus my mind on a problem; and “brain out” to expel nonsense thoughts when I want to relax.

My problem is that when I focus on “brain in” I now find that I hold my breath. It seems that I’m still not good at multi-tasking – breathing and braining at the same time.


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

#903: You will ask the right question when you know the answer you need

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question-markHere’s nonsense at work with a trick question. When you ask a question, do you know what you will do with the answer? Often knowing what you will do depends on why you are asking the question. Some questions are aimed at extracting the answer we already know we want. Other questions we ask because of what we don’t know, but know that we want to know.

As a manager, what is more important, the right answer or the right question? Management tends to be about action today, rapid results and solving problems quickly, which makes the right answer more valuable.

Leadership tends to be about future uncertainty, hence the more options to explore the better. Now the right question, the one that triggers different answers, is more valuable.

You will ask the right question when you know the sort of answer you need because you know what you will do with 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

#884: Why makes your to-do list done

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character-at-workMonday is coming (again and again) and you have much to do. Where to begin! With a to-do list. What’s nice about a to-do list? Checking items off the list.

So, what should be the first item on your list? To make a to-do list, of course. This way you start the day with a rush of pleasure as you check off the first item.

Here’s what I don’t like about to-do lists. What, what, what. No mention of why. Surely, it’s not only what you do. It’s also why you do it. Why forms your attitude, your mind-set, to what you do.

The word ‘check’ means ‘to hold back’. Is that what you want from your list? For real results, create a surge list instead. Begin your ‘what’s to be done’ with ‘why’ to create ‘wow’.  This will turn your check list into a surge list and your to-dos into done.


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

#852: Influence effectively by lobbying in the lobby

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lobbingOnce upon a time lobbying was not a naughty word. Lobbying was actually quite constructive. I know, because I worked for a successful firm that encouraged lobbying.

So let’s be clear about lobbying. A lobby is the entrance area to a building. And lobbying is the attempt to influence a decision-maker’s point of view. Put lobby and lobbying together and what do we see? Yes! That lobbying should be done in the open, not behind closed doors.

Furthermore, the word lob means to throw, and thus lobbying means to throw ideas at someone. It does not mean to pressure someone into changing a way of thinking.

In the successful firm that I mentioned, executives lobbied brazenly to influence an upcoming decision. But then something amazing happened. After the decision was made, those who lobbied like crazy now worked like crazy to make a success of whatever decision was made.


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

#847: Go deep to survive the power of a fool

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grinderI grew up in a woodwork hobby shop, surrounded by power tools, wood and sawdust. I learned amazing woodworking skills, such as how not to lose a finger, hand or arm.

Years later a super confident subordinate told me about his new table saw. Shocked at how he was using it, I told him that it was extremely dangerous. No, he said, that’s in the manual. Read it again, I insisted, I need you with both your hands. The next day he apologized.

I see many examples of superficial reading and shallow thinking. We have spawned a generation too confident to appreciate the depths of experience. Doting you-can-do-it parents and suspect information at their smart-phoned-fingertips trick them into acting the expert and feeling invulnerable.

I have all my fingers and my job only because my deep understanding of the power of tools stopped me developing the power of a fool.


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

#838: The word president explains why presidents get so little done


president-precedentIt’s Presidents’ Day in the USA. It’s the day we are supposed to remember all the past presidents. Well, in doing so, here’s what struck me about the title ‘president’. It explains why so little gets done by any one called President, whether of a country or of a company.

President’s Day serves to honor who came before. But the word president sounds a little too much like the word precedent. Precedent has to do with honoring what has come before. It implies that some past action should now be an example for current actions.

The real problem arises because we have had so many past presidents that it is difficult to pick a precedent to follow today. To put it differently, which president should now take precedent or vice versa?

Quite frankly, I’m not surprised that many presidents end up doing exactly what the word originally meant, namely to sit before.


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

#837: Let Spring remind you that growth is not development


growth-developsBe patient, people. Spring is coming. With it comes plentiful growth, which, of course, you will have to prune and cut. As your garbage heap expands, you will hopefully realize that growth is really just more of the same.

More of the same is growth, not development. Development is about improvement and betterment; growth is about expansion and enlargement.

Growth can have negative connotations, whereas development is normally positive. For example, we speak of a cancerous growth, but the development of the personality; we worry about population growth and try to solve it by encouraging population development. The fact is, although a garbage heap can grow, it cannot develop.

But it can mature. With time, garbage in means compost out. And compost out means healthy harvest. That’s the good news, as I sit here quietly maturing, watching others prune and hack away.


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

#814: Driving to save on gas

(Modified post from 2012)

unicycleA friend recently shocked me into sanity. He said that he seldom shops around for the exactly right product or a better price. He makes a decision and buys. If wrong, he buys again. Sure, I thought, you can afford to.

But then I realized how much time and energy I waste on product and price research, on agonizing whether to buy or not to buy now. It’s the equivalent of burning gas while driving to a slightly cheaper gas station. Where’s the logic in that?

Yes, it’s called opportunity cost. But you have not only lost the opportunity to spend that money on something else. You have also lost the opportunity to spend that time differently.

You could have engaged in more meaningful activities such as being with family and friends; eating and drinking; reading and sleeping; or even getting back to and on with your work. Okay, scrub the last one.

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You can listen here to the radio version of Driving to save on gas (10 most recent radio files)

© 2014 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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