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Kaleb Roberts

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Why do people find the need to entrench themselves in rules and policies?

For me, whenever anyone (especially those in authority) say "Kaleb don't do that!" I feel the instant desire to do it. Although desire probably isn't an accurate synonym. It's more like I have to do it or I'll explode. I've been this way for as long as I can remember.

Now that I have entered the workforce, I find there are so many rules and regulations. Granted, some of these have real merit (such as the recycling policies, and earwig steel cap boots when you enter the workshop)

However, there are some rules that are just plain idiotic. What are some examples of this behavior, why do people do it? Is it because (This is my assumption) they are afraid of the unknown? They are afraid of taking risk? Or is something that happens during the "nurturing" phase of life with overprotective parents. Maybe it's even a genetic thing.

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    Jan 17 2013: It takes things that are high entropy and creates low entropy
    • Jan 19 2013: I could't agree more. Just rearranging your words:

      Rules and Policies reduce entropy in a social system.

      The long version:

      Rules and Policies, provide a predictable behavior for most of the society members, which reduces the risk of errors and accidents, which also leads to a better decision making for all.

      Kaleb, I understand your point, yes there are idiotic rules some people follow blindly, however bear in mind: accidents are caused by unpredictable drivers, employees, people walking in the street and even by unpredictable software. Rules and Policies make things predictable. Predictability means safety.
      • Jan 19 2013: Excellent point George QT, but some rules are specifically made to limit the freedom of others whom the rule-makers fear, thereby punishing the rule maker with a shrunken world and and those unjustly affected by the rule or policy a shrunken world of opportunity.
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    Jan 7 2013: Clearly Texas is the place to be from.
  • Jan 7 2013: Sometimes rules are brilliant. When I studied music in college they showed us rules for various styles of music such as classical and jazz. The rules were different and complex in order to compose convincingly in those styles. Those rules were invented and collected and passed down from mentors to students. Diminished chords (tri-tones) for instance were considered music from the devil and the church wouldn't allow them at one time (rule). But rules are inherited and they represent lessons from our history and are meant to be either keys or shortcuts or cautionary codes of conduct. There is one rule that I learned in music college and it is "Support The Melody", and inside those three words there is a universe of wisdom involving music arranging; three simple words with so much meaning and guidance that when I realized it's wisdom, it made me smile. Or you could choose to ignore all of musical history and invent your own new style. But your new style will probably have rules and if people didn't follow your rules then it wouldn't be authentic.
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    Jan 7 2013: Some rules are good and the fewer the better the rest are just there to make MONEY!!
    • Jan 7 2013: This resonates with me Daniel. We put up with a lot just to make a living. Companies impose rules on us and the trade off is the paycheque at the end of the week. Also I see this in business as large stores want everything to be politically correct. The theory being that if they offend no one then everyone will return to their store and make them optimum profits. All about the money. In trying to please everyone sometimes the individual rights can get trampled, like happy holidays vs. merry christmas.
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    Dec 23 2012: Hi Kaleb - In the beginning there was the agricultural revolution and the first human settlements - close knit societies depended upon co-operation, so naturally rules followed this need. (and most of our societies other ideas such as money & institutions)

    However, I believe we need only one rule - "don't do unto others what you would have them do unto you." I try to apply this and have introduced my three children as a simple philosophy for life.

    Normally, as I also have an instinctive dislike of authority as it often represents unfairness or stupidity or power concentration, I try to follow the following:

    "Obeying their rules only encourages them to create new ones. Disobey as often as possible: for gain, for sport, for the art of it." - Ethan Mordde

    To create a 'good' society we need just one thing - that is to make sure ALL of our children are trained in the ability to 'think'. This is because if they can really think, we shall unshackle them from unfairness and stupid rule makers. This is I believe the worlds greatest challenge for long term success, and is clearly a difficult one since we cannot even manage to feed many of them presently.

    See: Super Fast Track Education:
    http://www.commonsensethinking.co.uk/sft.html

    Rgds
    JP

    If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you
    really make them think, they'll hate you.
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      Dec 25 2012: "Obeying their rules only encourages them to create new ones. Disobey as often as possible: for gain, for sport, for the art of it."

      JP that is one of the absolute wisest things I've ever heard, sincerely, thank you.

      "don't do unto others what you would have them do unto you."

      Your kids will be way in front of the eight ball I believe. If people could learn that, this society, especially towns like Gladstone would be SUCH a better place... how can you teach people that lesson.. rather, not teach them it, but for them to willingly want to learn it.. you've given me a LOT of food for thought.. thank you.
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    Dec 22 2012: Kaleb, welcome to the grownup world. When we are young we want to grow up so we can make our own decisions and have our great ideas. Then we grow up and realize we are still not there.

    I can tell you that this is a time of transition and learning. You have to reframe the experience of working in a sterile rule driven world before you can understand how to innovate in it. It is a time of learning about the structure and function of the corporate environment in which you work and how to properly innovate with in that structure. If you just go around innovating and changing stuff, you will be labeled a maverick.

    Never underestimate the experience of others. They may have seen your great ideas a time or two. They may know it won't work. But some things are simply tradition. But tradition needs to be respected. It is there for a reason, to make work a comforting place to be.

    Then there is stuff that has to change. But you cannot change anything until you have the big picture and can see the ramifications of the change down to the guy that mops the floors. You need to learn to work WITH your manager instead of against him. That will get you nowhere. Don't ask why a rule exists, but what can I learn about this. You will eventually learn enough to inspire change but that will not happen just because you got a job. That level of trust and respect must be earned.
  • Jan 20 2013: Racial segregation was a system derived from the
    efforts of white Americans to keep African
    Americans in a subordinate status by denying
    them equal access to public facilities and
    ensuring that blacks lived apart from whites.
    During the era of slavery, most African Americans resided in the South, mainly in rural areas. Under these circumstances, segregation did not prove
    necessary as the boundaries between free citizens
    and people held in bondage remained clear.
    Furthermore, blacks and whites lived in close proximity on farms and plantations and geographical isolation made contact between neighbors infrequent. However, free people of color, located chiefly in cities and towns of the
    North and Upper South, experienced segregation in various forms. By the time the Supreme Court
    ruled in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) that African
    Americans were not U.S. citizens, northern whites
    had excluded blacks from seats on public
    transportation and barred their entry, except as
    servants, from most hotels and restaurants. When allowed into auditoriums and theaters, blacks
    occupied separate sections; they also attended
    segregated schools. Most churches, too, were
    segregated. Reconstruction after the Civil War posed serious
    challenges to white supremacy and segregation,
    especially in the South where most African
    Americans continued to live. The abolition of
    slavery in 1865, followed by ratification of the
    Fourteenth Amendment (1868) extending citizenship and equal protection of the law to
    African Americans and the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) barring racial discrimination in voting,
    threatened to overturn the barriers whites had
    erected to keep blacks separate and unequal. Yet
    the possibilities of blacks sharing public conveyances and public accommodations with whites increased during the period after 1865.
    Blacks obtained access to streetcars and railroads
    on an integrated basis. Indeed, many
    transportation companies favored integration
    because they did not want to risk losing black
    business.
  • Jan 20 2013: in answer to the main question, if we don't do so what we have done is give the government free reign over us and our choices.
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    Jan 17 2013: Rules are created for a reason and if you want to be able to successfully plead for a change you need to first understand exactly how the system works and why specific rules are in place. Rules have the merit to standardize behavior and activities that work out but at times you come across rules that were put in place for reasons that no longer exist but people still follow them for being rules; a lot of traditions follow the same pattern; I have even seen rules put in place at work to control one single person's behavior and to avoid pointing fingers they made a rule for everyone; the rule still stayed in place after the person left. In some cases people in position to do so make a rule, just to make their life easier, by not having to deal with certain situations or tasks that would occur without the rule.
  • Jan 17 2013: this is an absolutely brilliant question i'm glad you've asked it!

    there are of course evolutionary reasons; we are better off for learning from the experience of others rather than being maimed or killed in finding out for ourselves, which necessitates that these others speak up when they feel they have some knowledge that might be useful. therein lies the problem though of deciding whether our knowledge is of high enough standard to pass on or not.

    i share your feelings about rules made by idiots! as a teacher i frequently came up against very well-meaning parents but without 5 minutes experience in teaching telling my colleagues how they should teach. thankfully this is balanced by a principal who is well aware that he has spent most of the last 10 years outside the classroom and never imposes rules on teaching policy. in the wider world you've got jim carrey, a legendary comedian who also inexplicably feels it's his duty to speak from a position of absolutely no authority on immunisation.

    you might have heard the expression "everyone thinks they are right", and in my experience that is true, however not everyone has reason for thinking so. to give an example, when i have my students retry any test questions they missed, when they bring back their work to me i asked if they got it right this time. some of them just say "yes", and others will say something like "well i looked at the section on this kind of problem in the textbook, and i think i know where i went wrong, and going over it again, i think this is correct now." i believe this is also supported by the really interesting dunning-kruger studies. people in the lower percentage think those above are wrong because their answers are different, and it hasn't occurred to them that they might be wrong, or they'd have checked and learned.

    that said though, it is also possible that these rules you are talking about are great rules, but you don't yet have the experience to understand their merit?
  • Jan 17 2013: Rules are the fundamental building blocks of peace. With out rules we eat our children.
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    Jan 14 2013: To properly answer the question I would have to have a list of the idiotic things you thought cause this conflict within yourself. You failed to list any.
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    Jan 11 2013: Assuming we are our own authority, is it a good idea to impose restrictions on ourselves? What does it mean "to do whatever I like"?
  • Jan 8 2013: "Without rules, we're savages."
    Can't remember exactly who said this, but I remember it's a quote from the famous drama series:
    Prison Break
    We need rules.
    Sometimes, like it or not, those are shelters for people.
    Sometimes those are like cells in a prison.
    Because we happen to be weak. We happen to be not perfect.
    We challenge the rules as if we're being awesome—actually quite often we are awesome lol.
    What's so 'special' about policymakers and Lawyers..?
    They have the power we don't have.
    We obey the law while trying hard to find faults in it to give ourselves ‘freedom’.
    We admit its necessity, but we shall fight clever so that we wouldn’t be the slaves of it.
  • Jan 8 2013: If you have to do something because someone told you to do the opposite, i fear that is not a helpful quality and might be worth trying to overcome.

    Some rules are silly but some are sensible. Like all things in life its hard to work out which is what and often it depends where you are looking at them from . Again do you just hate the rules because you do, or is there a real benefit to changing them and are you able to bring about that change.

    Don't waste effort moaning or debating if there is a problem to solve, take action and make the world better.
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    Jan 7 2013: There's nothing i hate more than someone telling me "You can't do this.." or "Who gave you permission.."
    When we're all born equal no one has the authority to decide what someone else can can or can't do. I've always has this mind set since i was a kid
    But i guess a lot of people like being told what to do
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      Jan 7 2013: Amen. I have a very similar mind set, I think it's probably the reason I'm always in trouble.
      I think if people mad their own decisions the world might be a little smarter. And a little less populated.
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        Jan 7 2013: But the sad part is that some people are in a psychological prison that makes them accept every rule given by a figure of authority without questions asked no matter how pointless or stupid it may be.
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        Jan 12 2013: Re: "...And a little less populated."

        What you said seems to imply that rules may be what made humans the dominating species on the planet. Don't you think, some rules help to avoid mistakes already made before us?

        Check out this article
        http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer
        It seems to say that ability to obey rules may be a useful trait.

        What do you think?
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    Jan 5 2013: Kaleb, Often rules seem stupid ... In Arizona you cannot ride a horse into a saloon .... yep still on the books. Just last year a idiot did it. I would love to know the real reason this became law. Probably had to do more with the safety of the horse than the idiot riding him.

    Most rules are written because someone has done something to harm ... endanger ... to take advantage .... to dominate others through trickery ... etc ...

    It is fun to look at the old laws and wonder if they should be stricken from the books. I searched for silly laws still on the books and found some doozies.

    My suggestion is to read them .. laugh at them ... and move on to happier thoughts.

    What are some of the silly laws in Australia?

    All the best. Bob.
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      Jan 7 2013: Hey Bob,

      That's rather odd. People here can be.. well they are pretty idiotic. I'll give you two examples.
      A) It is illegal for anyone other than a fully qualified electrician to change a light bulb..
      I have yet to figure out why this is, it's quite pathetic really.
      B) It is HIGHLY illegal to go within 100 meters of a whale carcass.
      This has to be a personal favorite. The reason they passed this law is because a whale beached itself somewhere in Queensland. This attracted many sharks. Tourists and locals alike decided they wanted to pet the sharks (while they were in the middle of a bloody feeding frenzy) so they (they being about 20 people) waded out to the carcass and began to pet the sharks. Needless to say it wasn't the brightest idea ever.
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        Jan 7 2013: G'day mate, Those are funny and the petting sharks is stupid I agree.

        I hope that is not one of the laws that you just want to run out and disobey .... LOL

        Glad we could have a laugh .... thanks for the reply.

        Bob "the yank".
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          Jan 7 2013: Bahhaa Hey Bob "the yank"
          I was born and raised in Texas, we only moved to Australia about five years ago LOL
          And surprisingly, (and disappointingly) most people don't talk like Steve Irwin..
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        Jan 7 2013: We moved here from Texas where I was an engineer for General Dynamics in Ft Worth.
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    Jan 4 2013: In working in the industrial field, I have come accustomed to rules. These are the federal regulations of OSHA. The power that nature can unleash in the industrial field is sometimes unimaginable, and often have tragic results when rules are not followed. These are the rules that protect people against harm. Because of this, people know that some rules are necessary for well being.

    As to your last paragraph, there are two ways of looking at it;
    First, there are three kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.

    The people who make things happen understand the difference between good and idiotic rules. They are willing to question idiotic rules, or even ignore them in spite or frustration. The people who watch things happen just go with the flow. Unless the rule is causing problems, they would just assume not making waves. The people who wonder what happened would be lost without rules. They are often the ones to whom idiotic rules apply.

    I find that many idiotic rules had a reason in the beginning, but the cause of the rule has changed and nobody wants to question the rule because it means questioning authority or admitting that they don't know the reason for the rule. They follow the rule just to avoid conflict or ending up looking stupid.

    The second way of looking at it is this; People who are known to break rules are often bypassed in certain jobs because those jobs require strict adherence to rules (such as when working with high voltage). Not all rules are idiotic even though they may seem to be. It's one thing breaking a rule and getting your hand slapped, or breaking a rule and getting your head ripped off. So some people will follow idiotic rules just so that they don't get into a habit of deciding for themselves which rules they can choose to ignore.
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    Jan 3 2013: Kaleb,

    I have moved from entry level positions to executive leadership roles within organizations. When I began I was full of wisdom from the books and school, and my own idealistic ideas. After several disgreements and arguments out of frustrations I was educated further on corporate dynamics, and people management.

    Usually there are very good reasons for some stupid rules in some organizations. And some such stupid rules cannot be explained to some staff due to reasons concerining security and trust. There are many good reasons and good rules in place as well for the overall benefit of the organizations sustainability and growth which may not be favorable to some individuals or positions within a company. Often there is a reason for the madness. Running an organization involves accomodating very complex situations. namely: people management, allocating financial and human resources, legal requirements, allowing people to take good and bad decisions, providing autonomy to individuals, and restricting some decision making powers as well. All of these eventually are driven for financial reasons and secure, stable growth plans. Yes risk taking is a major concern as well for all organizations. Although it may seem that some organizatiosn have taken risks, they are usually very carefully planned and tested ones.

    Having said that there are some organizatons with poor manageres and power holders. They take bad decisions and cover up thier mistakes with authority and arrogance. But such peopel do not last for long and are eventually let go. Companies that do not take the time and trouble to identify such bad managers will suffer dire consequences and fail. If you are in such an organization and you are sure of this, then you are free to opt out and look for a more stable and good company.
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    Dec 31 2012: here are simple rules for self government,they come from Africa,thousand of years before Christ they are TRUTH,JUSTICE,RIGHTEOUSNESS,BALANCE,HARMONY,ORDER,AND RECIPROCITY.....i dont think I even hear the word harmony in politics ever. I think these were good ideas and as we evolved they changed to purity,and sanctity and ingroup loyalty and authority and respect...which tends to define alot of the essence of current laws...but it demeans the individual,and it gives those who are loyal and dishonest a ladder to climb easily,as they simply need to join a group,but are not legitimate in their personal conduct....
  • Dec 31 2012: Rules provide consistency across an organization and across time. Rules are necessary to coordinate the efforts of large numbers of people. It would be absolutely impossible to run a large organization without having policies, procedures and rules. If everyone made their own decisions on every individual issue, an organization would have no consistency whatsoever. As an individual, you make rules/policies/guidelines for yourself to guide your own decisions so they remain consistent over time.

    As with everything human, problems arise for many reasons. Rules are often based on a particular situation at a particular location and time, and the rule is applied broadly, but it is not completely suitable for other locations. Rules often remain in effect long after they have become obsolete. Rules made at the top of an organization are often misinterpreted by people at the lower levels. I once heard a vice president of a major corporation lament that a rule he had initiated had been misinterpreted and had the exact opposite effect of what he had intended.

    Often the people at the top of an organization place little or no priority on the policies, procedures and rules that guide the behavior of everyone else in the organization. The most competent people are too busy with more important matters, so maintaining the policies and procedures manual is not done very well, and often does not reflect the actual wishes of the top management.

    Life is messy, and our rules reflect the limitations of humans.
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    Dec 31 2012: I think if there were no rules mankind had not achieved any degree of development. Probably we had only achieved disorder and very low efficiency. I agree there are a lot of absurd rules, but on the other hand there are many of them useful and helpful anyway.
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    Dec 27 2012: Kaleb I think you of what r saying share more of what you feel and how you thunk we can go forward
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      Dec 27 2012: I feel very.. strongly? About this.. it's something that's bothered me since childhood. I think SOME rules are necessary. The sheer amount of them creates disasters, less empathy, less kindness, poorer human relationships. With a few less rules, and a few SMARTER rules, with a huge increase in common sense, I think that's how we should move forward. Unfortunately, I don't have a clue how to distribute common sense to the populations of the world.
  • Dec 26 2012: There are many types of people in the world. There are those who make and question the rules, and those that follow and enforce them. People entrench themselves rules and regulations because they need the stability and support of something concrete like rules and laws. For them, it is something that will always be here, a constant. Rules provide them with organization and a guideline of how to live their life.
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    Dec 25 2012: People require rules because they are afraid, if you leave someone to the unknown they either accept it with a daring and evolved mind or they panic and deploy rules out of anxiety. Anxiety is a form of mental illness so of course obsessive compulsive actions and paranoia take over, thus people who are more accepting and willing to explore are punished by the small minded. The ones who tend to be the most rule and law abiding tend to be individuals who claim to be politically correct and morally upstanding, they are neither and are living in a dream world quite frankly.
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    Dec 24 2012: This question kind of reminds me of Golding's, "Lord of the Flies". If we had no rules whatsoever, someone would start enforcing rules anyway. So I think it is innate behavior for us to live by rules. Although I do have to agree with you, there are a lot of idiotic rules out there lol.
  • Dec 24 2012: I believe it's because many are afraid to make a decision for whatever reason. Rules lay it out so no decision making is required. I like making decisions so I too balk at many rules.
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    Dec 23 2012: Because as a society we have been bred to feel that rules are for the better, that if there were no rules we'd all lose our morality and run amock and do as we please, that we would lose all integrity.
    If you look at it through a bigger picture, it is easier to control any people when you run them down with rules, as they won't have time to question what you are doing.
    In regards, to genetics, I don't know, but when I'm told I shouldn't do something, unless it's bad for the humankind or puts someone's life at risk, it makes me want to do it, just because I don't feel that anyone has a right to tell me what I can or can't or should or should not do. If I am following my moral code, then why in the world can I not do something ?