When is it okay to break the rules?

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to hear that at school I was a bit of a “goody two shoes”. I didn’t like getting in trouble and so I didn’t break the rules, surely that’s a good thing? Rules are there for a reason; they provide structure and consistency, without any rules there would be chaos.
The above is true but sometimes rules need to be broken. Historically rule breakers have been the catalyst for great societal and political change. Think of Emily Davison, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and more recently Malala Yousafzai – they saw what was wrong with the “normal” of their time and did something to change it, breaking rules along the way. Without these rule breakers we’d be living in a very different world.

Innovation mirrors activism in that innovators look at the convention and find a better alternative. Take James Dyson for example, dissatisfied with how his vacuum cleaner lost suction and regularly got blocked he re-invented the machine, replacing the traditional vacuum bag with a cyclone. The result wasn’t world changing but it was truly innovative as Dyson had created the first bag-less vacuum cleaner, a piece of engineering that outperformed all of its conventional predecessors.

Being willing to challenge, bend or break the “rules” is the key to creativity and innovation. In fact, rule breaking is considered an “innovation tool” and can be used by organisations to improve productivity and efficiency. Organisations have their own procedures, approaches and habits and it’s only through analysing these and looking at ways to “break” them that new opportunities and different ways of working can come to light. Rule breaking doesn’t necessarily equate to trouble making.