The one-sentence summary

Uncommon sense can provide companies with the advantage they need to rise above common nonsense.


  • There is common nonsense behind much managerial behaviour today, particularly in the tired and cynical assumptions that underpin organisational routines, rituals and discussions.
  • Uncommon sense is what differentiates smart companies from the others.
  • Incompetence explains performance differences better than competence.
  • The important things happen at the periphery – on the edge of chaos.
  • Deutero-learning involves picking up helpful secondary habits whilst mainly learning something else (Bateson 1904-1980).
  • Too many forums rely on HIPPO (a Highly Paid Person’s Opinion).
  • Management models biased in favour of control at the expense of learning tend to involve:
  • Best practice – the recipe for formulaic sameness
  • Operational excellence – ‘doorknob polishing’ pedestrian policies
  • Competitive benchmarking – plagiarism run riot
  • Balanced scorecards – the bureaucrat’s revenge
  • Performance targets – insults for the conscientious
  • Annual budgets – the pathology of under-ambition
  • Financial incentives – bribes for loners and cynics
  • Organisational alignment– fear of diversity
  • Shared values – the extinction of individualism
  • Professional standards – box-ticking for the risk averse
  • Charismatic leadership – narcissism unbound


  • No business sets out to impoverish shareholders, irritate customers, demoralise employees, outrage governments and leave the world worse off – so why write mission statements claiming otherwise?
  • A catalytic mechanism is any managerial method that acts as a galvanising, non-bureaucratic means to translate lofty aspirations into concrete reality. (Jim Collins)
  • The cock-up theory of warfare:

1. Armies make a cock-up of everything.

2. The more they try to do, the greater the chances of a cock-up.

3. The best way to win battles is to do nothing and wait for the other lot to cock things up.

~ “Companies are rarely killed; they prefer to commit suicide.”

~ “There is nothing as useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Peter Drucker

~ “In a hierarchy, the top entrusts the understanding of detail to the lower levels, while the lower level credit the top with understanding of the general, and so all are mutually deceived.” Karl Marx

~ “No surprises? What, not even good ones?”


  • Nothing. This is pithy and inspirational.