For years now I have been practicing to be a crotchety old man. I think I’ve earned the right to finally have some fun. And now I have an added incentive. Bad moods help me to think clearer about how to be cranky.

After years of studying the dumps down under, an Australian psychologist has concluded that grumpiness makes for better thinking. According to Professor Joe Forgas, the way the brain processes information means that bad moods make you pay more attention to your environment and so trigger careful thinking.

Being cheerful might make you more creative, but being gloomy makes you less gullible.

Here’s the really useful bit. A grumpy person, me for example, copes better with demanding situations than a happy person does. So I figure, to succeed at being crotchety, I must create demanding situations for those happy clappy chappies who put me in a bad mood in the first place.

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Listen to the radio version of Bad mood rising (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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Mahatma Ghandi once said, “I must go now, for there go my people and I am their leader.” No doubt, Ghandi was a leader and yet, the so-called wisdom of crowds makes me nervous. Can a crowd really know better than one wise guy?

But then there’s the story that designer Christopher Williams tells about an architect who waited for the people to lead. He had designed and built a cluster of office buildings which the landscaper wanted to connect with sidewalks.

“Not yet,” said the architect. “Plant grass.” Within months there were clear pathways between the buildings. Although not straight, these pathways were the most efficient lines of connection. All the landscaper had to do was to pave where the users had shown their need, their preferred paths.

Indeed, sometimes leaders should simply get out of the way so that the people can show their path. But knowing when this is best is always tricky.

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Listen to the radio version of Leading on crowded paths (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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We have gone from experience listed as “more than 10-years with one company” to “one year experience with 10 companies or more”. You don’t agree? Read a few on-line experiential stories adults post in the hope of attracting the attention of people with payroll surplus.

We seem to agree that experience matters and even that someone with lots of experience in one field is an expert. Well, the experts in experience tell us that there are different types of experience, namely physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social experience.

With my experience in experiences over many years, I interpret all this to mean that we don’t have a clue what experience is or what, if any, value it brings.

So, until a future experience changes my view, I stick with this graffiti wisdom: “My old man shouts, ‘You should listen to my 58 years of experience!’ But what he had was one year of experience repeated 58 times.”

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Listen to the radio version of Experienced in repeated experiences (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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Have you ever wondered why people at work so seldom come up with new ideas? And why brainstorming sessions, supposedly designed to encourage creative thinking, tend to trigger the opposite?

Here’s a hint. What was your first thought at school when you were given a test or handed examination questions? Not the answer to the first question, I bet. More likely you asked yourself another question: “What is the right answer they expect?”

Why was that? Because school learning is based on one correct answer for every question. You either got it right or not. You learned quickly not to think up new answers. Doing that was plain stupid, because everybody knew that a kid who had right answers was a great kid.

No wonder we have people at work who, when asked to brainstorm or be creative, immediately think “What’s the right answer my boss expects? And will that get me a good grade, I mean bonus?”

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Listen to the radio version of The bonus in guessing right (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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Why do so many people get fired via email or telephone? The CEO of Yahoo is only the latest visible victim of this unbelievable lack of basic manners and respect for human dignity.

Blame it all on Mum. No, not on your mother. Not even on mine. Blame it on what social psychologists call the MUM effect.

Research has shown that people just don’t like being the bearers of bad news. We tend to either keep quiet about bad news or distort it to make it more palatable. Why? Because we know that negative information triggers negative feelings. And the selfish consideration? The risk that we will be liked less if we pass it on.

Frankly, I think we should be brave enough to admit that the MUM effect at the top is based on old-fashioned cowardice. And that we have a shortage of brave business leaders. There, I’ve said it. I could keep mum no longer.

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Listen to the radio version of Mum about brave business leaders (10 most recent radio files)

© 2011 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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