Common Sense indeed

10 Mar,2021


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Sanjeev KotnalaI have been a Martin Lindstrom fan. I have read most of his books. I frequently use examples, suggestions and learnings from Buyology, BrandWashed, Small Data, Brand Sense and Brand Child in my business. The two books by Martin Lindstrom that I am still to be read are ‘Clicks Bricks and Brands’ and ‘Brand building On The Internet’. So, it was natural for me to order his new book, ‘The Ministry of Common Sense’, when I came to know of it in one of the events held by Economic Times. Later, Martin Lindstrom’s session in the same event promised, the book will tell you how to restore common sense. It further enhanced the curiosity and an urge to read the book.

One understands there are few companies with real Ministries with the sole purpose of cleaning the useless rules, regulations and day-to-day trivialities. Things that should not be there in the first place. That’s common sense by Martin Lindstrom.



Business is all about need identification, providing a better-perceived solution, scaling up and growth. While scaling up templates, SOPs, uniform codes of behaviour and approach documents archiving the winning ways get created. They, with time, written and unwritten rules are created, norms and processes are defined. Soon, there is an army of employees hiding behind these rules, templates and approaches. The way things get done. The culture.

The organisation fails to identify things that are no longer required, between right and wrong, smart vs foolish, simple vs complex and things that may have outlived their utility. As a result, organisations carry dead systems without upgrading. People willingly follow acceptable rules than to question them.

In his latest book, ‘The Ministry of Common Sense- How to eliminate Bureaucratic red Tape, Bad Excuses, And Corporate Bullshit’, Martin Lindstrom presents a well-documented case for lack of common sense. There are examples to show that maybe we all have lost common sense. And that Martin is there to find these abrasions and solve the problem. I am not really getting into citing the examples, other than to say they are so in front of your face that you laugh at them.

You laugh till you start looking deep within your life and the organisation you work/run. You will find many places, processes, SOP’s within the framework of accepted and at times celebrated work culture of your organisation, things that defy common sense.

Now, you don’t really need Martin Lindstrom’s new book to know that. For me, Acharya Rajneesh did it many years back in his example of the Ritual cat.



When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

Seriously, a silly joke on army life circulated in the WhatsApp university of education will alert you to question silly, outdated rituals, offering, processes in your organisation and life. The need to question things and keep an open mind. The need to upgrade and update. Otherwise, even ‘The Ministry of Common Sense’ will remain a good read and nothing else..



A regiment had a new CO. On inspection, he saw two soldiers guard a bench. He asked for the reason.

“We don’t know, Sir The last CO told us to do so. It is a regimental tradition.”

The CO searched for the phone number of the last commander. He called him and got a reply. “I don’t know. The previous commander had the guards. I kept the tradition.”

He went back another three COs and until he located an 80-year-old retired General. “Excuse me, Sir. I’m now the CO of your regiment, which you commanded 50 years ago. I find two men assigned to guard a bench. Could you please tell me about the bench?”

Retired General, “What? Is the paint still wet?”




The five-step guide to finding and questioning the lack of common sense just need a bit of common sense. The examples in the book are definitely hilarious and humorous. They make a point. They make the book a good read. But, I think you don’t really need the book to help question, identify and replace or change these hidden gems in your personal/professional life or workplace. All you need is to look inside out. Think about how the organisation functions and interacts with the prime stakeholders—re-evaluate the process. Raise question with an open mind. And then make small changes to win the process approval. Oh, that all the book said.




This book ‘The Ministry of Common Sense’ is at a different pitch than the rest of his books. To me, the examples quoted in the book seem too familiar. It appeared to be a book written in a rush. The book seems superficial, and frankly, I did not get much out of the book. Maybe that points to better prevailing common sense or the lack of it.

It is like the “Painted House’ by John Grisham. Not having the same taste and flavour or feel to it. Maybe it is common sense that after really contributing to branding and purchase decisions, the accumulated examples and experience be crafted into a new book.




‘The Ministry of Common Sense’ by Martin Lindstrom is an excellent little book to read and chuckle at the examples.

Now, it is a different case if you are gutsy enough to look inside out. To question the process, rituals, SOP’s, templates, norms, and laws that govern, dictate and define approaches in personal/professional life and the place you work/ run. Question them and re-streamline them. You can do that; you don’t need this book. What you need is common sense.

Reading this book will cause no harm, so pick and read it. Unfortunately, it will not benefit you. It is Common Sense. So, am I recommending the book or not, you should be able to infer that with common sense. And, if it is not clear, maybe you should read the book.

Here is the book promo av.

PS. The text boxes have been sourced from


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