Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Break the rules


Dave Gunby is a professional trainer, a thought leader in the area of training trainers. I read a great quote today in his e-zine, which is also available on his MINDimensions web site. He quotes a story from Roger von Oech’s book A Kick in the Seat of the Pants:

When Columbus was at the Royal court in Spain, he asked the courtiers if they could get an egg to stand on end. They tried and tried but couldn’t get it to stand upright. He then boiled the egg and squashed it down. They said, “That’s not fair, you broke the rules.” He replied, “Everything is fair once you’ve done it.”

Columbus then went on to break some even bigger rules. When you are endeavoring to generate new ideas, whether solving old problems or creating new opportunities, you must be willing to break the rules. Make sure that your idea-generating session(s) include ideas that violate corporate policy (it’s always subject to change anyway), challenge well-accepted “norms,” and are just plain silly.

I’m not advocating breaking rules that will get you in trouble with the law (and I don’t believe Dave is either). However, leaders must be willing to take a hard look at long standing traditions or sacred cows and be willing to change them when necessary to improve results. It’s not easy, but always worth it.

2 thoughts on “Break the rules

  1. Michael,

    This post reminds me of a “Far Side” cartoon I recently saw that depicted a wagon train of pioneers under attack by Indians shooting flaming arrows into the covered wagons. One pioneer says to the other, “Flaming arrows? They cant do that? Can they?”

    Its a perfect example of your point. We get very accustomed to how things have been done in the past, and so we naturally assume their must be some rule against any other approach, even when the new approach is devastatingly effective.

    Typically, these “rules” we are accustomed to playing by are just some random person’s idea that other people started doing as well. You and I are just as qualified to become a “random person” and get people enrolled in our new, better, more effective ideas.

    Great post! Ross

    Take the Million Gratitude Post Challenge!

  2. I love the “Killing Sacred Cows” idea – I did an interview with the author on my podcast, which was very educational and fun for me. Google the title and you will get Garrett’s site as well as links to the podcast episode we did together.

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