Banishing The Bull

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An analysis of why people bullshit and what you can do about it. A taster for The Dictionary of Business Bullshit and asking Kevin to speak on the subject.

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Banishing The Bull

  1. 1. BANISHING THE BULL Kevin Duncan
  2. 2. WHY DO PEOPLEUSE BULLSHIT?
  3. 3. Bullshit…• Is now ubiquitous
  4. 4. Bullshit…• Is now ubiquitous “The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.” Professor Harry G. Frankfurt, Princeton University
  5. 5. Bullshit…• Is more insidious than you might think
  6. 6. Bullshit…• Is more insidious than you might think Bullshit: 1. The excreta of a large male bovine. 2. Technically endless supply of waffle and nonsense uttered in business meetings; cunning wordsmithery that is neither on the side of the false nor the truth; verbal expedience; the entire contents of this book. (see Bollocks, talking; Doughnut rather than the hole, it would be wise to concentrate on the; Obfuscation; Off the top of my head; Static; Talking out loud; Waffle; White noise; Word dump)
  7. 7. Bullshit…• Has not attracted much sustained inquiry because we think we know how to spot it
  8. 8. Bullshit…• Has not attracted much sustained inquiry because we think we know how to spot it Going forward: 1. The opposite of backwards. 2. Truly a king amongst kings; the undisputed champion of utter bullshit, with the possible exception of “proactive”; entirely pointless modifier somehow designed to suggest a forward-looking demeanour, when any fool knows that a backward one would be detrimental for everybody, except possibly historians who should indeed adopt a backward-looking approach; selfish waste of time perpetrated by anyone using these two utterly redundant words. (see -focused; Forward-looking; Future-facing; Futureproof; Goal-oriented; Here-and- now-ness; Momentum; Proactive)
  9. 9. Bullshit…• Is not easy to define because the term is often used loosely and as a generic term of abuse
  10. 10. Bullshit…• Is not easy to define because the term is often used loosely and as a generic term of abuse Bollocks, talking: 1. Testicles that can speak. 2. Sustained burst of total rubbish blurted out in answer to an unexpected interview question; patchwork of platitude and cliché designed to confuse; mission statement contents; any acceptance speech; 100% of proclamations made by politicians or sportsmen. (see Bullshit; Obfuscation)
  11. 11. Bullshit…• Covers a multitude of sins
  12. 12. Bullshit…• Covers a multitude of sins Knowledge management, transfer: 1. Control, or handing over of, wisdom. 2. Catastrophic inability to control or hand over any wisdom at all; brain drain; complete loss of expertise when one intelligent person leaves the company; collapse of all IT functions when Dave leaves; haphazard filing system that passes on no knowledge whatsoever. (see Know-how; Talent, war on)
  13. 13. Bullshit…• Is similar to shoddy goods – produced in a careless or self-indulgent manner, and never finely crafted
  14. 14. Bullshit…• Is similar to shoddy goods – produced in a careless or self-indulgent manner, and never finely crafted Bottom feeding: 1. Eating material on the floor of a river, sea or fish tank. 2. Hoovering up any crap that has settled on the bottom; dealing solely in the dross; working with or for the cheapest and worst possible exponents in the market; actively pursuing low-rent customers, and to hell with the consequences. (see Ambulance chasing; Scraping the barrel)
  15. 15. Bullshit…• Is a lack of concern with the truth and an indifference to how things really are
  16. 16. Bullshit…• Is a lack of concern with the truth and an indifference to how things really are Off the top of my head: 1. Something has just fallen from my cranium, such as a hat, or my wig. 2. I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, so I’ll just spout any twaddle I can think of and hope that nobody notices because they are all doing the same thing. (see Bullshit; Talking out loud; Waffle; Word dump)
  17. 17. Bullshit…• Involves a kind of bluff
  18. 18. Bullshit…• Involves a kind of bluff Obfuscation: 1. Deliberately making something obscure or difficult to understand. 2. An egregious lie or cover-up; frantic fudging of the truth to disguise incompetence or outright crime. (see Access to information; Bollocks, talking; Broad brush; Bullshit; Keep it dark; Hedge our bets; Mum, keep; Off the top of my head; Prevaricate; Talking out loud; Techno-babble; Waffle; Word dump)
  19. 19. Bullshit…• Is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed their knowledge of the facts that are relevant to the topic
  20. 20. Bullshit…• Is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed their knowledge of the facts that are relevant to the topic Bandwidth, he doesn’t have the: 1. Not intelligent. 2. He’s thick as a brick; dead from the neck up; relentlessly useless at work; no help at all, in fact, a downright hindrance; 100% incompetent. (see Intelligent, if you were any less ______, I’d have to water you once a day; Mental furniture; Obvious, firm grasp of the; Psychic RAM; Shilling, not the full; WOMBAT)
  21. 21. Bullshit…• Can involve: o deceptive misrepresentation o just short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed o misrepresentation of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings or attitudes
  22. 22. Bullshit…• Can involve: o deceptive misrepresentation o just short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed o misrepresentation of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings or attitudes Jazz Hands: 1. All style and no content. 2. Soup this presentation up immediately because it is essentially content-free (see Zee, we’ve covered everything from A to; Full Monty, the; Turd, polishing a; Wow factor)
  23. 23. THE BULLSHITTER
  24. 24. The bullshitter• Is not necessarily a liar
  25. 25. The bullshitter• Is not necessarily a liar Facts, cold hard: 1. The untainted truth. 2. What’s left after all the bullshit has been stripped away; most commonly exposed as nothing of substance at all.
  26. 26. The bullshitter• Is phony rather than false
  27. 27. The bullshitter• Is phony rather than false Crafting, it needs a bit of: 1. Further work is required on this. 2. This is sub-standard rubbish and needs to be done again. (see Bugs, iron out the; Drawing board, back to the; Optimal; Sub-optimal; Tools, management, unique; Woodwork, spanners in the, spanners jumping out of the)
  28. 28. The bullshitter• Is faking things, but this does not mean that they necessarily get them wrong
  29. 29. The bullshitter• Is faking things, but this does not mean that they necessarily get them wrong Putting lipstick on a pig: 1. Applying cosmetics to a porcine beast, presumably to make it look better. 2. Frantically try to make something appear better than it is, usually to no avail; futile cover up effort. (see GIGO; Jazz hands; Rebrand; RIRO; SISO; Turd, polishing a)
  30. 30. The bullshitter• Has much more freedom than someone who tells the truth or lies, because they do not require an anchor point on one side or the other
  31. 31. The bullshitter• Has much more freedom than someone who tells the truth or lies, because they do not require an anchor point on one side or the other Broad brush: 1. Wide painting utensil for covering a wide area. 2. Total fudge; failure to come to point; obfuscation; vagueness; sweeping attempt to avoid coming to the point. (see Gloss over; Keep it dark; Strategy)
  32. 32. The bullshitter• Intends neither to report the truth nor to conceal it
  33. 33. The bullshitter• Intends neither to report the truth nor to conceal it Come up to scratch: 1. Reach the required level. 2. Exasperated exhortation to reach the required level, for once in your life; desperate plea from boss to ineffective and feckless subordinate; set low standards for oneself and consistently fail to meet them; underachieve.
  34. 34. The bullshitter• Is neither on the side of the truth nor on the side of the false
  35. 35. The bullshitter• Is neither on the side of the truth nor on the side of the false Competitive advantage, edge: 1. Something compelling that makes us better than our competitors. 2. Sinking feeling based on the dawning realization that we are clearly no better than our competitors; on further examination, alarming discovery that we are actually much worse than our competitors; trumped up piece of corporate puffery to claim competitive advantage where there patently is none. (see Leverage)
  36. 36. The bullshitter• Does not care whether they describe reality correctly
  37. 37. The bullshitter• Does not care whether they describe reality correctly Reality check: 1. Occasion to consider a matter realistically or honestly. 2. Moment that seldom occurs in business due to too much haste or downright stupidity; sometimes used in pseudo-rigorous way by glib managers, as in “I’m broadly in agreement, but I think we need to take a reality check here, Sebastian”, and often accompanied by a broad sweep of the hand or a thoughtful tug of the beard.
  38. 38. The bullshitter• Just picks out material, or makes it up, to suit their purpose
  39. 39. The bullshitter• Just picks out material, or makes it up, to suit their purpose Massage the numbers: 1. Rearrange finances or statistics to create a different conclusion. 2. Deceptive, often downright illegal, alteration of financial reporting information in order to generate an entirely different outcome, usually favourable; slight of hand; legerdemain; malfeasance; contemptible twisting of reporting line to create a better picture, often resulting in company closure or personal imprisonment. (see Bottom line; Cook the books; Crunch the numbers; Fiscal juggling; Negative growth, profit; Obfuscation; Smoke and mirrors job)
  40. 40. The bullshitter• Does not reject the authority of truth, as the liar does, or oppose it – they pay no attention to it at all
  41. 41. The bullshitter• Does not reject the authority of truth, as the liar does, or oppose it – they pay no attention to it at all Authenticity: 1. Relating to anything that is authentic. 2. Totally false, such as “This product was lovingly forged in the crucible of time”; quality constantly demanded of staff in over-earnest companies. (see Passion, passionate; Provenance; Rebrand)
  42. 42. WHAT TO DO?
  43. 43. What to do?• Bullshit needs to be taken seriously
  44. 44. What to do?• Bullshit needs to be taken seriously Alarm bells, set the ______ ringing: 1. Trigger warning system because there is a fire. 2. Cause total panic amongst colleagues by doing something distinctly unnerving, such as wearing trainers with suits, reaching inside a room from the corridor when a meeting is in session and turning the light switch repeatedly on and off for five minutes, or insisting on being called Colin when your real name is Samantha. (see AWOL, go; Ballistic, go; Box of frogs, mad as a; Bundle, one stick short of a; Gene pool, swimming in the shallow end of the; Mid-life crisis; Moon, barking at the, over the, through the; Picnic, one sandwich short of a; Plot, lose the; Pram, to throw one’s toys out of the; Radar, off; Rails, gone off the)
  45. 45. What to do?• Should you be genuinely duped by it, things could get awkward
  46. 46. What to do?• Should you be genuinely duped by it, things could get awkward Nailing a jelly to the wall, trying to: 1. Attempting an impossible task. 2. Using jelly to do something for which it was not intended; trying to use tools that will never do the job, however insane the job is; hammering away with an inappropriate approach, too dim to realize that pausing for reflection could be more productive. (see Banana, stabbing a seal with a; Grasping at fog)
  47. 47. What to do?• It pays to be on the lookout for it
  48. 48. What to do?• It pays to be on the lookout for it Ear to the ground: 1. Well informed. 2. Phenomenally nosey.
  49. 49. What to do?• Analyse the different types and the frequent perpetrators of it
  50. 50. What to do?• Analyse the different types and the frequent perpetrators of it SISO: 1. Shit In Shit Out. 2. Wise and eternally verified notion that if you put poor data or other effort into something, the result will be just as bad as the crap it always was. (see GIGO; Putting lipstick on a pig; RIRO; Turd, polishing a)
  51. 51. What to do?• React appropriately
  52. 52. What to do?• React appropriately Risk-averse: 1. Not prone to taking any chances. 2. Inherently conservative; weak-willed; unadventurous; lily-livered; scared; not likely to do anything that might cause any trouble; ineffective; possibly not worth having around; a bit useless; not helping much; preferring to stay at one’s desk rather than get up and do something. (see Jobsworth)
  53. 53. What to do?• Don’t act on falsehoods
  54. 54. What to do?• Don’t act on falsehoods 60:50 relationship, this is the perfect: 1. This relationship is imbalanced. 2. Superbly exasperated expression of being set upon in a lopsided partnership that is supposed to be equal. (see Partners)
  55. 55. BANISH THE BULLKevin Duncanwww.bulldictionary.comTwitter: @kevinduncan07979 808770

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