‘No one ever made a difference by following the rules’

A pet tarantula whose namesake Cronus, a Greek god who neutered his father and ate his own children as soon as they were born to keep himself safe, was surely a disaster waiting to happen in a world that is bound by so many rules and regulations. Imagine then the government’s chief whip, whose job it is to ensure that party members follow the rules in attending and voting, who is now refusing to remove Cronus, his pet tarantula, who is currently lodging in a glass tank on his desk, even though pets, other than guide dogs, are banned from the House of Commons.

That got me wondering about the other rules that our elected representatives have to obey. And, unsurprisingly, many of them are completely archaic. For example, they are not allowed to refer to each other by name. They have instead to say ‘my right honourable friend’ or ‘the right honourable member from…’ Furthermore, they can only speak directly to Mr Speaker during a parliamentary session.

Understandably, they are forbidden from calling someone a liar or a hypocrite (which is a touch ironic, don’t you think?) But they also have strict rules on unacceptable language and some of the banned insults are very outdated. For example: “swine,” “blackguard,” “pipsqueak” and “rat.”

Curiously, it has been illegal since 1313 to wear armour in the chamber and yet bizarrely they still have a loop next to their coat hook to hang up their swords and the benches are allegedly still set at two sword lengths from each other to discourage dueling! And, most bizarrely of all you are not allowed to die in the building because, if you do so, you are entitled to a state funeral!

We have spoken to many of the ‘Top 100 Best Companies to Work For’ in recent months and the most successful seem to be breaking free from the rules and conventions that have bound them for so long. So why don’t we all follow their lead and shake things up? Some offer their employees unlimited holiday. Some have abandoned traditional dress codes. Others have scrapped petty attendance rules where team members are penalised for occasionally turning up ‘ten minutes’ late, even though they are more than likely to stay on after dark to complete a job on a regular basis.

Others have ditched decision making by committee as it is cumbersome and takes up far too much time. Some have binned generic appraisal forms that mean nothing and most certainly don’t motivate anyone. Many have successfully flattened out the hierarchies so that the newbie at the bottom of the food chain can speak to the ‘masters’ over a coffee. And some brave firms have even got rid of time sheets!

So if you were to look at the many rules that exist in your business, which ones do you think you actually need and which ones would you choose to stop right now? Interestingly, some traditional rules actually incentivize the opposite behaviour to that which you are trying to encourage. Maybe allowing everyone to bring their pet spiders into work may be a step too far, but, if your attendance policy gets people’s backs up or if the decision process that your innovation committee must follow means that nothing ever changes, then it’s probably time to start doing things a little differently don’t you think…