Christopher Lee just might have been the most typecast actor ever. He was, perhaps, the most phenomenal villain of all time and rarely played anything else.

He also out-Kevin-Bacon’ed Kevin Bacon as the center of the Hollywood universe as computed by The Oracle of Bacon.

Not to compare myself with Sir Lee, but I’ve been feeling typecast for several years now.

My consulting “specialty” is generalist, but always in and around IT and business integration and organizational effectiveness. What I’ve been doing is application portfolio rationalization (APR) and nothing but APR.

No, no, don’t cry for me Argentina. Or, if your name is Brad I still don’t want you to cry for me, although I might manage to muster some interest in how you’d make the lyric scan.

Now that I’ve successfully buried the lede (not “lead”), I hereby announce my return to private practice, effective, appropriately enough, April Fool’s Day, when, (I hope), enlightened KJR subscribers (I trust you’ll forgive the redundancy) and like-minded souls might want to engage my services in an advisory capacity.

Will this change KJR?

We’ll see. I figure the more clients I have and the more diverse the nature of the engagements, the more topics I’ll feel qualified to write about. On the other hand, if this turns out to be just a gentle transition to retirement, you might find yourself reading more re-runs than before.

I’ll probably scribe more “A Consultant Reads the Newspaper” articles than I used to – interpretations of current events through the lens of what I know about organizational dynamics, providing commentary the mass-market pundits seem to be missing.

But not a lot of them, on the grounds that just because I have an opinion doesn’t mean I have an opinion worth sharing. That is, as someone once said, the first amendment guarantees me the right to speak. It doesn’t confer the obligation.

Bob’s last word: Most weeks, when writing KJR, I try to avoid the word “I” as much as possible, on the grounds that it isn’t all about me.

I promise that this week is an exception, not a change in direction.

Bob’s sales pitch: You knew this was coming, didn’t you? If you’re interested in engaging my services … from advice offered a day at a time through something more deep and organized … here’s how to contact me.

If you aren’t interested, that’s okay, but I still do ask that you let me know what you think of each week’s missive, and that you’ll acquaint your acquaintances with Keep the Joint Running. I continue to think of us as a community. My job is to suggest and disseminate ideas. Recruiting new members is up to you.

Among the slices of my life I’m grateful for are the bits and pieces of wisdom KJR’s subscribers share with me that enrich my understanding of How Things Work.

This week, a tip o’the hat to Nelson Pardee for pointing me to a nice article by a gentleman named Morgan Housel titled “Common Causes of Very Bad Decisions.”

It’s so nice that this week I’m just going to share some snippets to whet your appetite, paraphrased into KJR-speak because I have to add some value somehow, after all:

  • Virtue is, for most people, negotiable. With a sizeable enough incentive we’re all capable of behavior we wouldn’t want headlined in the local newspaper. And for most of us, it’s the disincentive of being caught out that keeps us from succumbing, not our native integrity.
  • Mistakes are multiplicative, not additive. Imagine, that is, we’re manage to create a badness metric. Next imagine you have three colleagues who, on the badness scale, measure 2, 3, and 5. Their combined impact on overall organizational badness isn’t 10 (2+3+5). It’s 30 (2 x 3 x 5).
  • Probability is hard but accurate. Binary is easy but wrong. When our local meteorologist predicts a 70% chance of rain and rain doesn’t happen, we don’t review the last 100 rain forecasts to see if the meteorologist’s 70% chance of rain turned into actual rain in 70% of the forecasts. We gripe about the meteorologist being wrong.
  • Your opponents aren’t always playing to outscore you. Many are playing a different game than you are altogether. If you can’t figure out what game they’re playing you’ll never figure out why they do what they do, let alone what you should do about it.
  • The world is a jigsaw puzzle. It consists of a few million pieces. The information available to us and the knowledge we have about it constitute no more than a few hundred of those pieces. The moral of this story: No matter how much we think we know, we’re always mostly ignorant.
  • Success is more dangerous than failure. We can learn from failure. When we succeed we’re more likely to take credit for brilliance we don’t have than to understand that in a random world, winning the lottery isn’t a meritocratic outcome. This makes us vulnerable to overconfidence.
  • Learning from the successes of others is almost as fraught as learning from our own. Most people who succeed, most of the time, owe a lot of their success to dumb, random luck too. Sorting out what they did that actually factored into their success from everything else they did that had nothing at all to do with it is an unending challenge.

Bob’s last word: In KJR I’ve written a lot about the importance of creating a “culture of honest inquiry.” One aspect of this culture is insisting on evidence and logic and not just “trusting your gut.”

But just as importance is for each of us to recognize where our personal logic is vulnerable to sources of illogic, including but not limited to those so admirably summarized by Mr. Housel.

You might consider making a list and keeping it handy for those times you’re called on to make consequential decisions.

Bob’s sales pitch: This being the holiday season and all, what could make a better gift for those you’d like to enlighten than a book by yours truly? No, no, no, don’t answer that question. It’s rhetorical, not an actual inquiry!