Stupid Rules Contest

Photo by MoBikeFed


Bob Sutton writes that it is time to do a “Stupid Rules Contest” at Stanford. This is where his idea came from:

I once met the CEO of a large bank in New England who explained to me how they had made things much better by running such a contest and taking the suggestions seriously. For example, they got rid of a rule that people waiting outside a branch could not be let in until official opening time.  They changed things so, if it was 10 or 15 minutes before opening time and, say, people were waiting outside in the cold, employees could open the door and let them wait in the warm lobby.

And I want us to take the idea one step further. Don’t do it once in a while or when the “time is right”. Do it every week. Do it all the time. Have a post-it area or a whiteboard somewhere on in your office or an email address where people can write-up ideas –anonymously or not – about stupid rules that need to be canceled, reversed or improved. It is not only a great crowd-sourcing idea, a great way to engage your employees and great way to let them feel that they are in control of their environment. It is also an imperative in today’s business world.

It is imperative today’s business world to be able to kill things. It is imperative to stop and ask why (sometimes ignoring the how). It is imperative to reflect and to challenge our assumptions.

Yes, it will start with the really stupid rules, but it is a mindset, a culture and an environment. It starts with rules about the shared kitchen, then it moves to rules about the work area and before you know it, people are changing how they interact with the customers and more importantly, the rules of their market.

This idea is a little scary. Because it implies loose of control. You know what, that is probably why it such a good idea.



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