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Rules and responsibility

“Use your best judgment.”

Bureaucracies have a very hard time saying this to their staff.

They create an endless series of scripts and rules, procedures that force people to not care. “I’m just doing my job,” which is the precise opposite of, “I see the problem and I’m going to fix it.”

As any organization hits a sufficient size, it will increase rules in order to decrease responsibility. Because they’ve gotten big enough that they no longer trust the people who work for them.

Is that a job you want?

Is that a company you want to hire?

Fooled by reputation

The second law of motion isn’t true because it was discovered by Isaac Newton, it’s simply true. Newton merely described it.

The fact that he spent most of his time doing alchemy and looking for magic doesn’t impact the truth of what he discovered.

There’s a chasm between science, where the identity of the discoverer doesn’t matter, and culture, where, “because he said so,” is a factor in our beliefs.

The reputation of a jazz musician, or a comedian or a political leader can influence whether or not we think the work is any good. And it can even cause us to change our mind once we discover something about its originator.

Living in surplus

In our culture, it’s easy to choose to live in deficit.

To spend just a bit more than you make, so that you’re in debt.

To need to drive just a bit faster than the prevailing traffic, so you can push every interaction.

To measure yourself against someone (there’s always someone) who has more (there’s always more) than you do.

If this habit of becoming ‘behind’ is the fuel you need to do your best work, it’s difficult for an outsider to argue against.

But consider that it’s also possible to choose to live in surplus.

To spend a bit less than you make, so you’re never worried about paying the rent.

To drive with the flow of (metaphorical) traffic, because not only is it safer, it frees you up to dream.

And to measure yourself against no one but yourself. Raise your standards as often as you can, but not because someone else you chose out of the lineup of success is somehow ahead of you.

When you live in surplus, you can choose to produce because of generosity and wonder, not because you’re drowning.


PS Tomorrow’s the early decision deadline for the altMBA October session. This is our last session of the year, and the last at this tuition. Worth a leap.