Rules are meant to be scaffoldings that provide skeletal and organisational support for organisations. While some might argue that freedom and autonomy should take precedence over the adherence of rules, rules are what enable us to be free. Without the laws and the might of the legal enforcers, a country can plunge into chaos, where people plunder and loot others’ properties. Without taking class attendance, students are free to join and leave class as and when they like – thereby disrupting their study progress. Without a pricing system, supermarkets can charge exorbitant prices for economically affordable products. And without an travel itinerary for tourists, tour guides would be free to bring tourists to places where they have no interest in.
However, rules have to be implemented not with a rigid stance but with a flexibility to be adjustable over time. Humans rule over rules, for humans are the lords and rules, the servants. In current times, rules are being placed on pedestals while humans bow down to its every whims and fancies. Sometimes, even to the extent of creating inconvenience to the people, rules are still treated as an entity that cannot be breached or infringed upon – in the same way that robotics and machinery are now creating massive technological unemployment – thereby acting as masters of their creators, especially in developed countries.
The servant has turned against its master, and the only way to stop this is to create an awareness that much as rules are desired to bring order to chaos, humans have a tendency to stay within the comfort zone (read: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”) and follow predictable patterns. Rules are tricky in this aspect since they provide comfort and stability, but causes disruptions over time since rules often do not change with the times.
When some rules no longer work, we should bend or break them.
There is a great deal of discomfort in doing so for many people because most of us are comfortable with what works. Why tinker with something that is not broken? While it may not be broken on the surface, we have to think deeper than the surface level and ask ourselves how we can further streamline the (work) processes.
One overt observation of mine is that customers are now being asked to do more in order to speed up the queue. Consider a library where users are able to extend their loans over the customer service counters upon collecting their reserved books previously. Now, they are being asked to renew their loans at self-help kiosks. Similarly, customers who are able to collect their movie tickets over the customer service counters previously are now asked to collect the tickets at the self-help kiosks in some cinemas.
Why is this so?
This is because there is a change in mindset. While previously, most companies have always followed the mindset that “the customer is always right” and hence they have to serve to the best of their abilities, , more and more companies are coming to a realisation that customers have the abilities to do things on their own. This is made more apparent with the emergence and prevalence of budget airlines where customers show their willingness to handle some travel stuff on their own through the popularity of such airlines. The fact that overtaxed and often underpaid customer service staff often leave organisations for greener pastures may be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Hence, it can be observed that sometimes, fixed mindset such as the fact that customers always want to be served may be incorrect with the passage of time. Yes, there will always be a group who demand to be served but there will also often be other groups that want to do things on their own. Many may already understand that some rules have to be bend or broken but it takes mavericks who are in positions of power to do this.
We have to question existing rules (especially those which are already deeply embedded in contemporary society) and seek ways to improve them, or alleviate any inconveniences that might arise from them.
Some questions to ponder upon:
1. Current situation: There is often one teacher in class.
What if there are two teachers in class at any one time, one to teach and another to facilitate the lessons and answer students’ questions?
2. Current situation: Open concept offices are popular because the layout and settings stimulate discussion and courage interactions.
What if some cubicles can be closed off upon requests by staff (especially by introverts and the creatives) who need a quiet space to ponder and to think?
3. Current situation: We need to connect with one another on social media, which are often disparate and diverse.
What if social media can be converged into one or a few channels where users can congregate and interact?
4. Current situation: Social media users often talk about themselves and their families.
What if there is a social media that allows or encourages others to talk positively about their friends? Let’s face it. Most people like to actively and regularly hear compliments and praises from others rather than passively receiving updates on their friends’ latest design craze, favourite food, family issues and selfie shots. Lending a listening ear to one’s friend is one thing but receiving tons of irrelevant updates churned out by friends is another.
5. Current situation: There is no strong reading culture in some countries, and it never takes off despite much publicity efforts in the form of storytelling sessions and book reading clubs.
What if reading culture is not something that can be promoted or nurtured? That one of the best ways to encourage reading is to evoke the curiosity of oneself of things that sustain our interest and research from that point onwards?