Finding Top Talent Without College Degrees

The next time you post a job opening, you might want to think twice before automatically including a requirement for a college degree.   You may think that this is a suggestion that you lower your standards.  Actually, it’s an invitation to raise them.

Requiring a degree may save you sifting through unqualified riffraff, but it also excludes folks on the opposite end.  People with a lot of ambition, talent, and/or leadership potential often do not fit in to the college process.  They are too busy doing what they love doing, and doing it professionally at an early age, to wait four or more years to get started at it.

Just one example, in the music performance business, no one cares if anyone has a degree.  We just test– stringently, I might add– for proficiency, via auditions.  No weight is given to certifications from strangers, as they are notoriously unreliable.

But in any profession, once you find the best performer, do you really care how they acquired their skills?  And if they acquired them in an unusual, creative, and less expensive way, don’t you want that kind of thinking on your team?   Why default to denying yourself access to that resource?

Another reason to open your doors to the non-degree’d has to do with simple economics.   Many people who are recent college graduates are carrying a substantial debt load.  In practical terms, this means they may be less likely to take economic risks, like maybe getting fired for making the waves that your company might need.  If you are looking for a creative risk taker, the person without the degree may be a better bet.

And finally, there are the storms brewing on the horizon: First, as you already know, is the soaring cost.  As a system of outsourcing your employee training, college is becoming economically unworkable.  And there is another issue, one that no one is talking about yet: denying higher-paying jobs to people without degrees may not be legal.  There is a growing movement of capable kids out there who are taking non-college paths, not to mention those in apprenticeship programs. If they are fully qualified to do the work but are still turned away, some enterprising lawyer looking for a deep-pocketed defendant might convince a judge that “educationism” is a violation of their client’s civil rights. If that happens, it could very well be the mother of all class action lawsuits.

So the next time you list those requirements for applicants, ask yourself, is requiring a degree really in the best interests of your company, or society as a whole?  You have the power to decide.


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Leading a Horse To Water: Too Much Training Within Industry

For those of you who are not familiar with TWI, a.k.a. Training Within Industry, well, have you ever seen those WWII era posters lionizing Rosie the Riveter? The collective ability of Rosie and her many colleagues to manufacture tanks and B-29’s at an astonishing rate was one of the main reasons why the Allies won the war. But Rosie and friends were not master machinists.

They were housewives and secretaries, hurriedly pressed into service. There was no time to train them to be true masters at any given machine shop trade, so instead, the people running the factories invented “TWI.”

TWI is a complex concept, but a big part of it was to break jobs down to their basic elements. This allowed previously unskilled workers to learn much faster, and quickly become a productive worker on the assembly line.

This approach was so successful that Japan modeled its post-war economic recovery on it, and just fyi, when we talk about Toyota Lean Manufacturing, this all began with TWI.

It’s unclear whether it was TWI’’s influence or just the general industrial economy that has led to it, but this break-it-down-to-simple-steps approach has migrated into much of our culture. If you look around the blogosphere or the bookosphere or the consultosphere, you will see this element of TWI in many other iterations; all sorts of non-manufacturing tasks have also been reduced to their fundamental basic steps, with the same promise of increased productivity.

The trouble is, what works in manufacturing environments doesn’t necessarily work in non-manufacturing environments. Some tasks– like, say, healing, teaching or leading– can’t be reduced to a simple series of steps, at least, not beyond bare minimum functionality.

Just one example: I spent ten years at the virtual feet of various “experts” who offered simple laid-out linear systems of how to publish a book. In the end, I found the answer was not writing the perfect query letter to an agent, nor was it “great writing,” nor was it in “getting on Oprah.” Turns out the “trick” wasn’t a trick at all; it was writing a book that people actually wanted to read, and having the guts to risk failure and rejection by putting it on sale.

I had the exact same experience in learning music, dance, and management. There is no standard system for discovering your unique capabilities and pushing them to their highest potential. Training, advice, and mentoring are certainly helpful, but in the end, if you want to “get good,” you just gotta hunker down and do it.

While the idea that someone else has broken things down for you and made it easier is very appealing, these systems actually get in the way of developing true mastery. When you work towards true mastery, these previously adopted “quick and easy” approaches often evolve into bad corner-cutting habits needing to be undone, making the process less efficient, not more. Worse, it is very easy to become overly reliant upon these external systems and lose faith in yourself.

So when it comes to achieving “excellence,” cultivating creativity, or developing maximum leadership potential, yes, many people will offer you five easy steps for leading a horse to water, but if your goal is to make him drink, that requires a reassessment of your perception of the universe and your place in it, not to mention a complete rethink of your relationship with the horse.

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Koping With The Kool-Aid

Presumably you know what “Drinking the Kool Aid” means, but if not, let’s just say it refers to people who blindly and unquestioningly accept a given dogma or belief. For those of us who have not drunk the Kool-Aid (or are at least reasonably certain of same), there is a never ending problem in life: how to cope with those who have.

Models of How The World Works

Every workplace (as well as every institution and social group) has its own set of dogmas, that is to say, a set of beliefs that are a sort of “model” of how the world works.

Acceptance of those beliefs . . . aka drinking the Kool-Aid, or at least pretending to . . . is required for being a member of that group.

Since belonging is the primary motivation for all human behavior, wholesale allegiance to dogma is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Navigating the energy of dogma, i.e. figuring out what is true vs. what everyone thinks is true, is key to both personal advancement within a group as well as effect management of a group. It is especially important if you seek to make changes; belief in dogma is the primary impediment to growth and change, as the old one has to be pried from one’s cold dead neurons before a new one can take its place.

Many people get confused by dogma energy. Common industrial-era dogma tells us that human beings are rational creatures; if you accept that highly appealing self-congratulatory model of the mind, the failure of rational arguments to manifest change can be quite vexing. If you can’t give up your own dogmatic belief that rational arguments “ought to work,” it is easy to exhaust yourself in endlessly making them over and over again to no avail.

Managing People Immersed In The Kool-Aid

If you are seeking to make change, here are the basics of managing folks immersed in the Kool-Aid:

When it comes to managing other people, it is important to realize that most people will not respond to even the most simply stated rational arguments if such arguments conflict with their accepted dogmas/ map of the world. There is not enough space here to get into the whole topic of how embracing a dogmatic belief can cause a kind of blindness to obvious facts and logic. Suffice to say that most human beings are capable of hypnotizing themselves, and will readily believe things that are nonsensical to objective observers, and simply ignore facts they don’t like.

Since logic alone is seldom effective as a change agent, if you seek to be a true disruptor, then you have to think in terms of meeting these people at the emotional, rather than logical, level.

The perceptual blindness that often accompanies dogma belief is usually induced by some past trauma or current fear that is unbearable to look at consciously. This state of apparent “stupefaction” can’t be quickly fixed. The root cause of the “blindness” is a kind of injury, and thus has to be healed. There also has to be some willingness on the part of a given Kool-Aid aficionado to do the healing; history teaches us that challenging dogmas usually invites violent responses, so pick your battles carefully. (When we talk about “great leaders,” they are usually people who have a kind of immediate healing presence that lessens or transcends the effects of trauma-induced blindness and hesitation.)

There is always this tricky balancing act between knowing when you are at a higher level of consciousness (and accepting the sense of exclusion that you suffer by not being at the Kool-Aid cocktail party) and recognizing when someone else is at a higher level than you. Just as you are currently humoring folks in the Kool-Aid swim, rest assured there are others silently tolerating your personal Kool-Aid choices much the same way. It can be hard to know the difference between those who are just eager to find followers to validate and reinforce their world of illusions and denial, and someone who has actually risen to higher consciousness and is willing to take the risk of sharing that with you. Seeing this difference requires balancing confidence and humility, as well as a fair amount of trial and error.

About The Author

Justin Locke is an author, playwright, disruptive influencer, humorist, and occasional speaker.  He is the author of Principles of Applied Stupidity and Real Men Don’t Rehearse.  Visit his website at

In Management, Stupidity Is An Advantage

We live in a world laced with smartism, i.e., a universal presumption that being smart is better than being stupid. But in the modern work world, at least in management, it is better to be stupid than smart.

Realizing that this goes against everything you have ever been taught, here are just a few of the ways that stupidity and ignorance are superior approaches to management tasks:

1) The Dumber You Look, The More Stuff People Tell You.

If people think you are smarter than they are, they won’t tell you anything, because they will assume that you already know everything. This may include such items as your car is being towed, the company is being bought by Google, or the building is on fire. People love to feel smart, and if you let them feel intellectually superior, they will repeatedly indulge in that delicious feeling by telling you everything they know. Information is power.

2) Ignorance Is Opportunity.

When we attach shame to ignorance, we block the primary path to personal growth. Every journey of discovery begins with calm acceptance of the statement “I don’t know.”

3) The Slowest Thinker Is Always In Charge.

When a project needs a lot of folks to sign off on it, the last holdout always gets the fanciest dinner out to persuade them to get on board. When a team climbs a mountain, the slowest person tied on the rope line determines the pace, and thus becomes the de facto boss. And when people apply for a plum job, the last application sent in always lands on the top of the pile.

4) The Less Thinking A Manager Does, The More Thinking The Managees Have To Do, And Vice Versa.

Nature always requires balance, and the more managing that goes on, the less working gets done. The next time you curse your boss for being so stupid and lazy and disorganized, and thus making you work so much harder, take a moment and ask, “Is he doing this on purpose?” Your smartist need to indulge in feeling intellectually superior to the people in charge may be leading you down the garden path to unpaid overtime.

This article has taken an admittedly somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone, but this was done for a reason.

Talent, leadership ability, creativity — these abilities are easy to find. What is hard to find is someone who is not afraid of “looking stupid” by openly engaging in them. Most of us live in a world where we are constantly shamed for being different and imperfect. True leaders and innovators are people who are willing to expose their vulnerability in spite of this. They are willing to be seen making mistakes. They are willing to risk being shamed for “being a failure.” When it comes to paying for “top talent,” this rare ability to disregard the stifling power of shame is what you are actually paying for.

By countering shaming words with humor and humility, you gain power over them, and they lose their power over you. With a little study and practice, you too can become a superior performer, simply by “getting in touch with your inner idiot.”

About the Author: Justin Locke is a former bass player turned management philosopher. He is the author of the heretical management book “Principles of Applied Stupidity (How to Get and Do More by Thinking and Knowing Less); visit his website at

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In Management, Nothing Is Fabulous

Peter Drucker, and many others, have often used symphony orchestra conductors as a metaphor for the role of a CEO/leader in the corporate world.

That said, in all the many daily lists, blogs, and tweets regarding “what great leaders do every day” and the many “attributes of a great leader” articles, there is one management skill of great conductors that never gets mentioned, metaphorically or otherwise, and that is . . . their doing of nothing.

Henry Mancini was perhaps the best example of this. You never saw a guy do so much nothing in your life. Very sweet, very pleasant, very charming, but . . . he never really said anything, and he never really waved a white stick around either. And you never heard an orchestra sound so good in your life. Insert sound of head-scratching here.

This brings us to an element of management technique and theory that doesn’t get anywhere near enough ink or attention: simply stated, nothing . . . is fabulous.

When you are in power and you are in the room, everyone has to take time and energy to allow for that. If you are in power and you open your mouth, everyone has to stop working to listen to you, react to whatever you said, and treat it as an important statement. After a certain point, the more managing you do, the less work actually gets done.

Unfortunately, our industrial culture places much more emphasis on what you do than on what you don’t do. Hard to get paid for doing nothing, yet it is one of the most important skills a manager can have.

Henry Mancini understood how to manage: Just write a good arrangement, i.e., just make it clear what you want other people to do, and get the hell out of the way.

For a manager, the biggest problem in using “The Mancini Method” is coping with the boredom and sense of loneliness it creates. Most of us want to be “part of the team.” And what’s point of having power if you can’t have the fun of exploiting it now and again?

When it comes to choosing between the positive and negative polarities of management, there is always a dark-side temptation that must be overcome: The ego — and the desire to justify one’s managerial existence and higher pay rate — relentlessly draws us to “do stuff,” and to see one’s “managees” as passive inert entities that must be constantly inspired, instructed, monitored, and acted upon. Eighty-five percent of all the conductors I played for embraced this negative polarity, and so the players had to scale back endlessly on their energy output to allow for the insertion of this surplus managerial energy.

Doing nothing requires the positive energies of trust and faith. Maintaining that calm state in the presence of all the fear-mongering that justifies the negative management polarity is hard. It’s a real test of one’s character.

Henry Mancini, and for that matter, all the top conductors, were masters of doing nothing. They did nothing, and in response, we filled that vacuum with our everything.

About the Author: @JustinLocke is a former Boston Pops bass player turned author and management philosopher. He is a regular contributor to Visit his website at

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There Are No “Almost Great” Leaders

Once upon a time, I had the extraordinary privilege of playing for some of the greatest conductors in history.

But before you tsk-tsk me for self-aggrandizement, let me also say that I once had the not-so-extraordinary experience of playing . . . for some of the worst conductors in history too.

Many were just dull or mildly annoying, but there were also quite a few that were, well, what can I say . . . they were a genuine check-the-clock-every-45-seconds-wondering-if-life-is-really-worth-living-and-should-I-quit-the-bass-and-take-up-animal-husbandry experience.

But here is the odd thing: there was no middle. I never once encountered an “almost great” conductor. They were either magical, making everything flow with virtually no effort, or they were misery.

When I stepped out of my cultural silo to share this phenomenon with the broader world of people who earn money for a living, I discovered that it was not at all unique to the music business. I had merely seen one iteration of an emotional fractal. People in many different walks of life have told me similar stories. There are no “almost great” leaders or managers anywhere; they either got it or they ain’t. It’s positive or negative, with no gray shades. Their polarity is simply magnified by their power, for good or for ill.

Note, their numbers are not evenly distributed between the two. Gallup’s statistics of workplace emotional disengagement support my theory that the ratio of great to miserable leaders is something like 1:4, or perhaps even 1:5. And so, since most of us are managed by somebody somewhere, and these Gallup numbers indicate that the chance of getting a good manager is perhaps less than 20%, we are all eager to improve our odds via leadership development.

But when we talk about “leadership development,” perhaps that is neither the right term nor the right approach, as it is clearly not a linear process; it’s a bit of a quantum either-or experience. You can always tell in any situation if the leader has embraced one polarity or the other. You can immediately see which of these mutually exclusive forces are in play: hubris or humility, command or communication, narcissism or empathy, fear or faith, blind obedience to systems and tradition or spontaneity, mistrust or trust.

You would think that, if the Earth’s magnetic field is capable of changing polarities, perhaps some of these folks stuck in the negative side can make the shift too. At least, it gives us hope.

But if we assume that there is science in it, and manifesting the positive polarity of leadership is not just a random genetic propensity, can those on the other side be brought round with mere textbook learning?  Or perhaps, are these folks in Group B caught in the grip of Alice Miller’s re-enactment syndrome, and they need, not just “training,” but new-age psychiatric healing help?

In any case, mere corrections on the temporal level miss the point. The fix lies in a leap to greater, or perhaps one might say deeper, consciousness. Once that happens, everything else becomes effortless, as people in that positive state become so open to energy flowing to them.

How to achieve it? Stay tuned . . .

About the Author: Justin Locke is a former bass player turned author, speaker, and consultant on “soft skills,” “emotional literacy,” and the “touchy feely” side of management and leadership. Visit his website at

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Does Management Advice Actually Work?

So I was getting a root canal last week and I asked the doctor if they were going to use a checklist. “After all,” I said, “as everyone knows, Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto showed that the use of checklists dramatically reduces the chances of medical error, like maybe root-canaling the wrong tooth.”

She replied, “Atul who? Open wide.” ZuhhWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Once the Novocain wore I off I went to over to Whole Foods for something to eat. I noticed that the checkout lines were all backed up, and I asked the manager, “Tell me, have you ever considered taking a Toyota Lean approach to revamping your checkout stations? There seems to be a considerable amount of muda here getting in the way of delivering the value of time savings to your customers.”

He looked at me and said, “Toyota what?”

When I got home, I watched this report on CBS about how corporate/company meetings are a big waste of time and money — 37 billion dollars a year by one estimate. I thought this was awfully important. I was going to share it with one of my clients, but unfortunately we could never get together to discuss this new idea, as we were both tied up in meetings all day.

I am very sensitive to human suffering, especially when I am the human doing the suffering. While a certain amount of misery is inevitable, an awful lot of extraneous human suffering can be traced to a management decision somewhere that inevitably led to it. So, like so many other people, I think management-ology is an important subject. But I am starting to wonder if there is any point in it.

We live in a virtual sea of management advice these days. There are books, blogs, articles, magazines, seminars, university courses, webinars, consultants, speakers, and trainers, all there to cultivate better management. So here’s my question: is any of this management advice actually . . well . . . you know . . . working?

I am sure there have been many individual epiphanies and improvements here and there, but if you compare our current state of overall management expertise and effectiveness to the big picture of historical norms, can we honestly say we have better leaders and managers nowadays? In making your comparisons, remember that Romulus and Remus never read Good to Great, Eisenhower never read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and NASA put men on the moon without a single visit from Tony Robbins.

I hate to be the one to say it, but when it comes to trying to persuade people in power to do something different, logic, efficiency, and serving the greater good are turning out to be ineffective arguments. We must always remember that when people possess power, their primary goals are always to maintain it, to increase it, to enjoy it by exerting it over others, and to remain as comfortable as possible. Any new idea, no matter how well researched and thought out, and no matter how great its potential benefits to the workforce or the general populace, must serve those goals if it is to be implemented. Otherwise, one must rely upon the wait-for-a-cataclysmic-event-to-require-change approach.

I just realized that Niccolo Machiavelli told me all this 500 years ago. Did I listen to him? Of course not.

About the Author: Justin Locke is a largely uninvited participant in discussions of management philosophy. Visit his website at

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