The Problem with Rules!


Have you ever wondered why we seem to need more and more rules? Like many my age, I don’t remember having so many rules as we do today. Why do I care (and why should you)? Decision-making is a critical component of leadership. And, decisions made closest to the point of delivery enhance responsiveness, agility and (usually) effectiveness.

In our business, we seek to develop decision-makers—precisely for these and many other reasons. Behaviors and actions that historically were considered plain old common sense, increasingly seem to require rules. The challenge with such an approach is that it stifles innovation and independence. We learn by doing, and, occasionally, failing. In Tom Peters recent book, The Excellence Dividend, he posits 2 “principle ideas: (1) WTTMSW, or whoever tries the most stuff, wins; and (2) WSTMSUW, or whoever screws the most stuff up wins.”

Obviously, there are processes that must and should be governed by rules. Building things that have the potential to cause harm probably should follow more disciplined processes. But, as Tom Peters observes, as we witness the accelerating pace of change driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), we should consider a WTTMSW/WSTMSUW culture.

I often joke with friends and employees that I’ve mastered failure—but I learn quickly, and I encourage them to do likewise.

We live in a world of abundance, and we should look cautiously on rules that have unintended consequences—and I believe this applies to helping others succeed as much as it does to parenting children to explore and make mistakes.

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