Be Creative: Stop Following the Rules

breakthrough-wall“If you obey all the rules, you  miss all the fun.” -Katherine Hepburn

With the exception of gravity, almost all of the rules are negotiable – someone just makes them up. It’s no longer about what you can’t do. It’s about what you can do. And that, my friends, can be scary-awesome.

Often in organizations, there’s this entanglement between hierarchy, respect, fear and compliance with following the rules. Just getting the job done. Great Work is a counter-cultural act. That’s what makes it difficult, challenging, vital. 


Ask yourself “Which rules am I following?” There are some obvious things here. Social norms, such as wearing clothes in public. Rules for safety, like stopping for red lights. And, those unspoken things we just do, like turning around and facing the doors of an elevator that we’ve just entered.

Start by jotting down some of the rules others make up for you. Try answering this: “At work, we’re not allowed to…” and write down ten things that are beyond the pale in the place where you work.

What I find is that the first part of this exercise takes me neatly, embarrassingly, into the second, more slippery list of rules:

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier, Senior Partner of Box of Crayons. He's written a number of books, the best known of which are Do More Great Work, and the philanthropic project End Malaria, created a series of short internet videos, such as The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun, that have been seen by millions and designed a wide range of training programs that are being used around the world.Michael is on the editorial advisory board of the Peer Bulletin, the leading journal on mentoring. He's also Thinker in Residence at Knowledge Blocks, a resource for readers of business books. He's been the Creativity Coach for David Allen's Getting Things Done online community. Michael is a popular keynote speaker at business and coaching conferences around the world. He was the first Canadian Coach of the Year and a Rhodes Scholar.

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