The Rules

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You never know when you’re going to have an epiphany. The other day I was on a flight to Toronto which was unusual only in that it was only an hour late, not bad these days. As we were landing, the flight attendant reminded us that the use of cell phones while taxiing is prohibited in Canada, unlike the US where you can hear them fire up as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac. Unfortunately, most of the passengers must have thought we had landed in Cleveland since a lot of phones were turned on as we landed. And then the flight attendant spoke.

“I’ll remind you once again that you are prohibited from using your cell phones until we are in the terminal,” he said on the PA system, “I don’t make the rules but as an adult I follow them.”  But it was what he said next that triggered the epiphany.  To no one in particular, he said “we wonder why we’re in trouble?  All these smart business people and they can’t even follow a simple rule.”

Wow.  I’ve written many times about the need to challenge and sometimes break the rules if you’re going to move forward.  But Lou the flight attendant (42 years aloft, thank you), recognized that not all rules are made to be broken.  Ask any of those swindled by that crook Madoff how they feel about the rules he broke.   I’m not so sure breaking the “rules” on lending to those without credit was the best plan either.  There are a lot of other examples that prove Lou’s point – I’m sure you can come up with a few.

So when you’re thinking about breaking a rule, do exactly that – THINK!  Sometimes, rules aren’t meant to be broken, especially not the rules labeled “laws.”  I don’t think the use on planes of cell phones on the ground will cause any more issues in Canada than it does in the US but I don’t really know – maybe they’re on a different communication system, maybe their ground navigation is done differently.  The prohibition is also a law there.  Law + lots of unknowns = follow the rule (but don’t be afraid to question it – that’s another post!).

Part of what I do is help clients figure out what can go wrong with a new strategy or initiative.  We will then go down each possible negative outcome and assess the probability of it occurring along with a way to avoid that outcome.  Once in a while, we rethink the entire strategy – breaking the rules has way too many probable negative outcomes which we can’t figure out a way to avoid.   That’s how, as Lou suggested, we stay out of trouble.

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1 Comment

Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints

One response to “The Rules

  1. Jim F

    Interesting. I think the rule you encountered was the “you’re in a foreign country AND haven’t yet passed customs, so no cell phones until you complete that process” rule.

    When i travel intra-Canada, the cell phones light up on landing like neighbouhood x-mas lights in December. No problems there. When i travel to the US from Canada (I am canadian BTW), i pass through US customs in the CANADIAN airport. I can assure you, cell phones are NOT permitted in that area. I was reprimanded quite severely once when I was detained in US Customs when i tried using my cell phone (another story).

    Your point to THINK before breaking rules is a good one to help you avoid landmines. Understanding the WHY behind the rule (in this case you’re in a foreign land AND havent passed customs yet) is even better since the WHY can keep you out of trouble in several situations, even ones you may not have encountered before – whether you’re arriving by boat, plane, train, car, bike, etc

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