We all abide by many spoken and unspoken rules every day; while some of those rules have good reasons, plenty more have no reason and possibly a negative outcome. They stifle us, they rob us from imagination and they contain us.
Why do we follow rules that stifle us? Well, most of the time because it’s the easy thing to do. It saves us from thinking, and from challenging our assumptions. We have busy lives and the last thing we want to do is analyze and think about everything we come across. So when we are not sure how to behave we look around us for cues concerning 'correct behaviour'. In many situations, how others behave is in fact the best way to behave. 'Following the herd' is our lazy automated way of doing the 'most likely' best thing to do. It’s a type of conformity that is part of human nature. This phenomenon is called social proofing.
As comfortable as this may sound; here are 5 reasons why avoiding rules will make you more productive.
Rules that have no reason are just obstacles
A classic example is the work dress code. If you or those around you are more productive in jeans than suits, then why not wear jeans?
“Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something." — Thomas A. Edison
Rules hinder our imagination
If you live by the rule of "never color outside the lines", you will quickly become bored (and possibly boring), life will be filled with mediocrity.
Challenging assumptions makes us grow as people. It forces us to think, and encourages us to try new things. No one ever accomplished anything exceptional by following all the rules.
Rules trap us in a local maximum
Rules that put us in local maxima are the hardest to break, but breaking them can be quite rewarding. These are the rules that were introduced because they do have a clear benefit to them, but they may not be optimal. How would we know if we never break them?
Moving from one hill to a bigger hill often requires risk. It requires going down before we go back up again. Those who dare to swim against the stream will be the first to get there.
Rules hinder innovation
If you want to be ahead of the game, you need to innovate. And when you are innovating you don’t follow the rules—you make the rules.
Rules can make us focus on the wrong things
Rules often remove agility and consume our focus. It adds to bureaucracy and takes time from more important things.