Could rules be holding your team back


The vast majority of rules help individuals determine what’s right and what’s wrong. Whilst rules no doubt have an important role to play in society, not restricting yourself is something everyone has toyed with.

Most don’t want to take the risk, and we don’t blame them. A world without rules could be a very troubling one. But could ditching some of the rules have some positive effects on the individual and even entire organisations?

The surprising truth

As you may have guessed, our passion for unhurried facilitation means we like to go against the grain to achieve the almost impossible. This got us thinking about how having no rules to hold us back could garner the same fruitfulness. We’re not alone in this thinking.

A primary school in New Zealand took part in an exciting research project and rid its playground of the many safety rules that are restricting children all over the world. Principal Bruce McLachlan reveals its results, and they’re particularly surprising:

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

The question is, could this principle be used in corporate environments to inspire the same creativity?

Rules reduce learning

As the children of the New Zealand primary school demonstrated, an environment without rules can be positive. The children’s imaginations were nurtured and engagement was higher than ever once the safety rules were removed from its playground.

Whilst some rules will have still applied – and quite rightly so – the experiment meant that the adventure of learning wasn’t hampered. Rules may teach us rationality, which is great as people face risk and uncertainty. But creative human behaviour cannot and should not be restricted or shaped in any circumstance - including at school or within the workplace.

Without rules and systems, risk and uncertainty can be faced with ingenuity and uninhibited problem-solving. Difficult situations can be faced and difficult conversations had. Rather than rules being set and followed on how to approach difficult scenarios, people can use their knowledge, experience and will to overcome challenges and learn from them.

Less is more


Adding rules to shape feelings or thoughts isn’t the answer. As the saying goes “less is more”, and more rules can, in fact, create more problems. This is applicable in all industry sectors and with all professionals.

Traffic engineer Hans Monderman’s story puts this point into perspective. He was charged with redesigning a busy two-lane road, which greeted 20,000 vehicles daily. Instead of doing what he was taught and adding complex road systems to manage traffic, he removed signs and encouraged human instinct to improve flow.

By scrapping the rules that inhibit learning, better balance and creativity can be discovered, much to your employees’ delight and your wider company’s success. As a team leader, don’t be afraid to get messy and operate without rules. Your team will be all the more empowered by it.