Rules That Are Made to be Broken

Within the recruitment and selection process, a curious phenomenon takes place. Entrepreneurs are gradually weeded out. Managers claim that they want more people who have an entrepreneurial mindset. That’s because they’re hoping to obtain the benefits that come from people who are creative. When all is said and done, however, the majority of those who possess this mindset aren’t hired and the few that manage to slip through the cracks, as it were, soon leave.

Why is that? What prevents organizations from getting what they want? Why do they, in effect, hire the wrong people?

The short answer is that it’s because those who really are entrepreneurial don’t follow the rules. Instead, they see them as unnecessary restrictions on their penchant towards creativity; and it’s that characteristic that interviewers recognize and reject. They don’t want people to come in and rock their little boats called the “status quo”.


Logan’s Run

You may remember the movie Logan’s Run. Logan, played by Michael York, is a thinker – another trait of entrepreneurs. He can’t understand why life should end at age thirty. To him, the fact that everyone before him has followed this course isn’t an explanation: it’s only a statement of fact. The surprising thing, he discovers, is how hard it is to break the rules. His peers are bent on enforcing regulations to such an extent that they will hunt him down in order to bring him back so his life can be terminated. Ironic, isn’t it. It’s the way they’ve always done it in the City of Domes.

What about your organization? Do you feel that no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get those with the entrepreneurial qualities that you want? Do you wonder why there isn’t more creativity? The fact is that you may be doing any one of several things to dissuade the people you want from working for you.


All, however, is not lost.

You can start by questioning the rules. Do they make sense?

One rule that you may have is that you don’t make exceptions. That’s crazy. We in the UK are so afraid of a two-tiered system, for example. The fact is that everyone’s different. If you attempt to treat them all the same, then you are ignoring their individuality.

For example, suppose there are those in your company who would rather work on Bank Holidays instead of being forced to use their holiday time according to arbitrary dates in the national calendar. Do you prohibit this even though the jobs that people do are different? If you do, then you’re adhering to rules for the sake of them rather than taking a reasoned approach to the situation. Some jobs can be done on these holidays, while others can’t. Why prevent those who want to work from doing so?

Or how about letting people work from home? If they spend all their time on the Internet while at work, what difference does it make if they choose to do so from home when the office is closed? Is it that you don’t trust them? You’d better hope that they don’t suspect that of you.


How do those who are entrepreneurial see rules?

In other words, why do they feel that they are there to be broken?

1.    For one thing, rules stifle their creativity. To give you an idea of the extent of the problem, consider this fact: There is no country that has ever existed in the world that has been able to be innovative without the free exchange of ideas. Communism and political correctness already limit this, but so do organizational silos. Those who want to create new products and services and improve old ones don’t want to be shackled with rules that prevent them from doing so. And so what happens is that if you won’t change the rules, then they will bypass them altogether. They’ll ignore them or, if it comes to that, leave for pastures greener elsewhere. It’s your choice.

2.    The second thing is that rules define traditional work. They are conventional. They are for those who are happy to have a “normal” job. They are not, however, for everyone.

Those who are entrepreneurial aren’t in the habit of following everyone else. Like Italian drivers observing a road sign, when they see a rule they ask, “Does this apply to me? Now? Under these circumstances?”

Entrepreneurs travel the road not taken. They follow the narrow path. They’re the ones who climb out of the boat and try to walk on water.

3.    The third thing is that to them, rules are another way of saying “I work for so-and-so”. You can bet your bottom dollar that they work for you because they haven’t yet figured out how to do what they want to do without you. So the key to their continued employment with you is to give them the liberty to do what they do best in your organization. You certainly do not want to give them a reason to leave.

So it’s make-your-mind-up-time. Which is most important: Rules or creativity? If you choose the former, then you’ll never get the latter.


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