the difference between breaking a rule and breaking a stupid rule

 

 ================

“To every rule there is an exception—and an idiot ready to demonstrate it. “

Vera Nazarian

==

“Any fool can make a rule. And any fool will mind it.”

Henry David Thoreau

==

Everyone, and I mean everyone, is tempted to break a rule or two. This includes even a normal <or quasi sensible> person. As I noted in my ‘pirate post’ the sane people in business get frustrated with not getting shit done and is tempted to become a pirate <raise the black flag> and kill <hopefully not literally> conformity, the status quo and those things that may dull the edges in business <and life>.

 

“Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

H.L. Mencken

 

For today let’s call the well intended rule breakers <not the amoral actors> rebels. All businesses need a rebel or two.  Why? Rules encourage compromise and rebels hate compromising.

Rebels cannot.  It is about winning on their terms or losing on their terms – ‘terms’ most typically defined in a simple “do what is right’ mentality.

To be clear.

I am not suggesting cheating.

I am not suggesting lying.

I am not suggesting anything nefarious.

I am simply suggesting that some rules may need to be sacrificed, or adjusted, in order to do what is right. And sometimes it is a truth that there is a better, if not actually best, way of doing something. That said. This is where businesses run into some problems.

Business is a contradiction with regard to rules.

Business loves construct and loves defining “how this company plays by the rules” <literally outlining rules> and, yet, they want people to think freely for themselves. Business actually thrives on people who don’t simply follow rules like a sheep but rather look at rules with a discerning eye of ‘stupid or smart.’

Ah. Smart.

Smart people don’t encourage breaking rules. Smart people encourage breaking stupid rules.

Smart people don’t break rules for the sake of breaking rules. Smart people assess rules and break them when appropriate.

Look.

Being a rebel is tough mainly because there are some wacky rule definitions scattered throughout businesses. I do believe you can encourage individualism <rebellion> in some other way than ‘the world is full of rules. Be the exception.’ No. I KNOW you can encourage individualism and smart behavior choice even in the face of rules.’

Valuing some sense of order thru rules, and personal accountability toward rules, is kind of what makes civilization run. Same with business. Smart rule breakers respect rules because they do offer order but recognize stupid rules as order for order sake.

Look <part 1>.

Some rules are good. And rules intended to keep people safe <even if it is a stupid rule> and a business from running into a ditch is good. Telling a person that it is good to break the rules, no matter how seemingly small or stupid, is a bad lesson. Rebels need a discerning eye.

Look <part 2>.

Beyond society, in business I know breaking stupid rules is sometimes necessary to get things done. Excellent effective leadership actually seems to come with an unwritten responsibility to cut through rules that act as barriers to achieving what needs to be done <for the overall betterment of the organization>. I could argue that truly great leaders get where they are because they can do exactly that, legally of course, when the rules tell us otherwise.

Some people call this cutting through the red tape. I call it the ability to weave your way thru the organizational bullshit and get shit done. I can guarantee that if you look throughout any successful organization you will always find some ‘smart’ rule breakers who work diligently to overcome or circumvent the rules, regulations, and policies that unintentionally hinder progress and make it difficult to accomplish shit that needs to be done.

Anyway.

Business isn’t always a Dilbert scene and business SHOULDN’T always translate into some simplistic perspective.

In organizations there is certainly individual responsibility, in behavior & decision making, but there is also a relationship with the greater good & greater organism. A person may actually be one of those professional ‘break stupid rules smartly’ people but ‘managing’ people takes a different skill.

Uh oh.

I think I just suggested two sets of behavior rules.

Anyway.

Here is what I know about the art of breaking stupid rules: independence.

Independence in terms of viewing rules smartly, independent thinking, independent accountability and, well, a dependence upon others to independently agree that this is one of those situations in which there is a stupid rule creating an obstacle to doing the right thing.

I would suggest that great business leaders who embrace independence as an organizational concept are often like the great frigate captains of the old British navy <who were kind of like rebels within a larger organization>. They showcased an ability to effectively participate in the larger organizational activities when required and an ability to be effective taking off on independent campaigns.

I would say that if you do want Independence, well, you do have to be smart about it. Once again:

Smart people don’t encourage breaking rules. Smart people encourage breaking stupid rules. Smart people don’t break rules for the sake of breaking rules. Smart people assess rules and break them when appropriate

One last thing on the ‘smart’ aspect.

This is not intuition or instincts. This is rational, logically driven behavior. Intuition means different things to different people but suffice it to say it is a horrible way to consistently manage a business & make business decisions. Intuition reflects biased view. Balancing logic & experience & speed & instincts is an incredibly tricky balancing act but that balance is often the formula for success if you want to break a stupid rule with independent thinking..

All that said.

99% of the time rules are in place for a reason. Someone thought it made sense and offered some value. I say that to remind all the rebels out there you need to “step in” to a rule, understand it, untangle the stupid part, identifiy what guidelines are meaningful and then envision not only what you need to do <in breaking the stupid rule> but also envision the consequences.

Hey. I didn’t say it is easy being a rebel. Rules, even stupid ones, should take some work before you break them. The best rebels do the work to insure bearing a rule offers real value <in other words, breaking this rule was valuable disobedience to the construct>.

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Bruce