Breaking Rules …

Probably one of the hardest things for managers in a corporate, or even SME, role is to deliberately break a known business rule or challenge an existing cultural boundary.

As they usually say: “Managers succeed by following the rules” and by the time managers reach senior positions within an organisation, by slavishly following this strategy, they are loath to tempt fate, and their careers, by doing otherwise.


Paradoxically innovation often requires the breaking of rules … particularly disruptive innovations.

For example hugely successful startups such as Uber and Airbnb are predicated on breaking rules evidenced by the numerous court battles they face all around the world on a regular basis.

But clearly the gains are worth the pain!

A few pioneers such as Google have attempted to build a rule-breaking ethos into their organisations … famously introducing a 20% rule giving employees the freedom to pursue any innovative side projects that they thought would help the fledgling search engine behemoth.

For the record founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first highlighted the idea in their 2004 IPO letter (to would be investors) however some well placed ex-employees have suggested this a bit of a myth.

Marissa Mayer Googles 20th employee and now also ex-CEO of Yahoo! suggests, perhaps tongue in cheek, that it should more accurately have been called the 120% rule!

In fact US-based Israeli innovation thought-leader Yoram Solomon, Founder of Large Scale Creativity, maintains:

“The greatest ideas hardly ever come from using 20% time away from work. They hardly ever come from the innovation lab.”

Instead he argues that ‘They come from busy people who had ideas while doing their day job, stayed late, and tried things without getting permission.”

“What’s more if I had to explain why employees are more creative in one company more than others, it’s because that company has a culture of innovation.

And if I had to explain why one company has a stronger innovation culture, it’s because they have more trust ingrained in them. More about that later …

Dr Andrew M Connery is the Director of Innovation at CTPM Australasia and has been active online since 2001.

Andrew completed his PhD at the UOW’s Sydney Business School in 2015 his doctoral dissertation ‘Overcoming Barriers to the Introduction of Perceived Disruptive Innovations in to Rigid Efficient Systems’.

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