If there is one thing that I have learned over four decades of working, it is this: What stops executives, managers, teams, and individuals from being successful is often simply nonsense.
So, what is nonsense?
The term ‘nonsense’ describes absurd, ridiculous, foolish or meaningless words, ideas, or conduct. Nonsense is purely subjective: you are likely to see ‘nonsense’ when you disapprove of it. (For example, you might disapprove of the word ‘bull’, although others use it to indicate nonsense.)
The problem with nonsense is that it side-tracks you from your work, tricks you into wrong decisions, and trips you short of your goals. Nonsense stops you from being successful.
Nonsense is always at work. It never stops. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there is always some sense in nonsense, if you look for it. And if you are willing to look for it, time and again you will find that you can make the nonsense at work work for you.
You see, nonsense has a purpose. It works at getting you to change your ways.
And so the snippets of nonsense that I will share with you over time will either make you think, ‘Hmm, that makes sense’, or ‘What nonsense!’ Both reactions are acceptable. What is not acceptable to me is if you don’t at least think about the sense or the nonsense.
Undoubtedly, you have seen E. G. Boring’s picture of the old lady and the young girl, the one where you either see a young girl or an old woman. The picture, not E. G. Boring, is quite famous. (If you don’t know what picture I am talking about, then search on-line using the key words “ambiguous Boring figure.”) What is not famous (i.e. common knowledge) is that he got the idea for the picture from a British cartoonist named William Ely Hill. In 1915 Mr. Hill published a cartoon in an American humor magazine named Puck. His cartoon had the following caption: “My Wife and My Mother-in-Law. They are both in this picture. Find them.”)
But there was an even earlier version. Below is a German postcardfrom 1888: