Great Things Can Happen When You Break The Rules

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When we think about rules and processes in the workplace, what immediately comes to mind are the policies put in place to increase efficiency. While implementing rules and processes is intended to produce positive results – streamline operations, encourage consistency, provide clarity, assign accountability, and above all, increase our productivity – it is time to confront the reality that they do not always accomplish the intended goals.

In July 2015, Yves Morieux, Director of The Boston Consulting Group’s Institute for Organization, delivered a Ted Talk on this precise idea, which serves as the inspiration for my blog. In his Talk, Yves discusses the productivity pattern seen in European, Japanese, and American economies over the past half century, which shows that productivity has grown five percent per annum during the mid-1900’s, and over for the last 20 years has declined, with only less than one percent growth per annum. So what’s the cause of this reduced productivity? Morieux asserts it is the “holy trinity of human efficiency: clarity, measurement, accountability. They make human efforts derail.”

Let’s go over this idea. We want to be productive, so we implement rules and processes to help us gain clarity on how to tackle something, understand who is accountable for what, and measure that we are doing what we set out to do. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “rule” as “a principle that operates within a particular sphere of knowledge, describing or prescribing what is possible or allowable.” Since in our society we are conditioned to follow rules and not break them, for if they are broken we will likely be reprimanded, we may follow the rules and do not question their validity.  But to move the business forward, we have to break them consciously. Let’s look closer at the impact of this corporate disobedience.

When we follow rules and processes we may create somewhat of a tunnel vision for ourselves, allowing ourselves to only see attainability of our goals via the rules and processes in place.  By doing so, we are actually limiting ourselves. We remove our ability to think outside the box, we remove our ability to rely on our own judgement and we remove our freedom to tackle the issue in a completely novel way. Rules tell us where our function starts and stops, and we don’t think beyond that.

So if following the rules and processes limits our creativity and prevents our businesses from thriving, it is safe to say that complacency in this regard becomes the bane of our productivity, and stops us from becoming who we actually can become. The Dalai Lama said, “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”  Therefore… Go, be naughty, and see what transpires.

– Denise Chyczij

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