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Knowing when to break rules

Some people follow rules, guidelines, laws and instructions without questioning. It is great if the rules are good and efficient, but that is often not the case.

Other people ignore most of the rules by default. If someone tells them, that something is forbidden or they are supposed to do something in a specific way, they will do it their own way anyway if the rules seem wrong to them.

Both approaches are bad.

First of all, you need to evaluate the landscape. Are you in a free country or a dictatorship? Are you in a sucessful company operating for years with profit or a company, where customers and employees are unhappy? In the first case, following most rules by default is the better strategy, in the second case, approaching each rule with skepticism is the better strategy.

Next is evaluating each rule separately. Do you understand it? Do you know why it is in place? Can you guess what is the goal of the rule? Is it a generic rule followed broadly (e.g. do not kill anyone) or is it arbitrary rule used only in given state (do not make fun of the dictators dog) or company? If you do not understand the rule, in most cases it is good strategy to follow it until you start understanding it.

Only after you understand a rule, law or a guideline, there is good chance, that you know when and how to break it. Most rules try to address 80-90 percent of cases, but no rule is perfect. Fllowing a rule that is not harming anyone by default, even if it means more paperwork or effort or discomfort for you, is therefore a good strategy.

And when you know why the rule is in place, you can ignore it in the 10-20 percent of cases, when it does not make sense.

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