Creative Leadership

Why Crazy Rules Exist

Over and over, I visit organizations that have incredibly stupid rules in place. One TV station had a rule that you had to switch between cameras every 10 seconds – no matter what. A church had a rule that you couldn’t change the lighting on the stage. A production company had a rule that you couldn’t have close-ups in a program. The list goes on and on – completely insane rules at otherwise apparently normal organizations. If your organization has rules like that in place – before you beat your head against a wall – here’s the reason:

Somewhere in the past – probably before you came onboard with the company – a person with no skill, talent, or intelligence did something really stupid, over and over again. Chances are they were morons. They kept repeating the same mistake, and management got so frustrated, they finally put their foot down and had to create a rule – even a dumb one – just to get him or her to stop. But now that person is gone, people have forgotten why it happened, and you’re left to deal with that incredibly stupid rule. If you’re in that miserable situation, here’s my recommendations:

First – Never attack the rule directly, because the rule – stupid as it may be – solved an even bigger problem in the past.   Show them a better way to solve the problem, and the need for the rule will go away.

Second – You start by winning management’s confidence.   You have to prove that you’re not a moron, and you have the skills to fix the problem without the hindrance of a wacky rule.

Finally – You have to show them you’re listening.   Remember, the rule was put in place because of someone with a tin ear. Listen to the concerns of your leadership team and make them understand that you’re listening and you care.

I’d love to hear other examples of stupid rules you’ve encountered. Stupid rules happen, so stop driving yourself crazy, and starting making changes.

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  1. That nothing can be done without the approval of ONE person who happens to be the busiest and hardest to reach person in the organization. 

  2. Each and every guest must be approved by the higher up each and every time you want to book them on the same show no matter the time frame. No on-air guest can be affiliated with Phil Cooke LOL (I’m not joking). Rarely book women as on air guests. No women can host with the exception of one or two. No one else can host a show except a handful of men. Do not tell the truth as to why a person cannot/doesn’t not want to be on the show, you will be considered a liar and your station will be threaten to be taken off the air. If the wind changes that day in the office of the higher up, the rules change once again. New rule: 20-30 min. preaching each show because a “music show” got such good ratings & there was no preaching. Hey, I’m just getting warmed up here………. You’ve made a great point Phil. In addition, I think a few rules come from major micro managing coupled with no creativity and irrational thinking.

    1. So if God is creative, but denies creativity to such shenanigan-masters of Christianity 1.0…

      Would God give His creativity to Christianity 2.0?

      Would Christianity 2.0 involve a new, better, higher, more intelligent World View? (That didn’t break but confirm scriptures?)

      Would Christianity 2.0 be easy (like the salesmen of Christianity 1.0 make their World View easy)?

      What if Christianity 2.0 was tough, but doable.

      Maybe Christianity 2.0 needs a new network.

  3. I worked for one broadcast where we were never allowed to show the back of the speaker, for any reason.

    Problem was that this guy was a very dynamic fellow and he moved all over the place when on stage and this made avoiding getting a shot of his back very difficult. For crying out loud, there were times he would do these quick spins! Very silly rule.

  4. Agreed, been there many times. Sometimes, even though one does all these things, you may NEVER be able to convince some people to change. Unfortunanetly there are some people who are so afraid of trying anything new/different, that they’ve dug themselves a foxhole so deep that they can no longer see the light of day.

  5. A well-known American airline (hint, hint) has a long list of rules that must be STRICTLY adhered to for non-revenue flyers (IE someone with a buddy pass from their spouse who is a pilot.) If you break even one of them, you will be unceremoniously booted out of First Class, and possibly the entire flight by a Fashion Police Flight Attendant. Here are just a few regarding clothing choices:

    Attire for all cabins should be well groomed, neat, clean, and in good
    taste. If in doubt, don’t wear it. Traditional or casual
    business attire is required for first or business class
    accommodation. If a traveler is properly attired for coach
    but not for first or business, and only first or business is
    available, the traveler will not be accommodated in first or
    business class. Coats, jackets, hosiery/sock and collars
    are not required. Capri pants are acceptable in all cabins.

    The following attire is not acceptable in ANY cabin:

    – Shorts or T-Shirts
    – Sweatshirts or tank tops
    – Jogging suits, workout clothing or leggings
    – Micro-mini skirts
    – Bare-midriff or provocative/revealing/see-through
    – Beach clothing or footwear, flip-flops
    – Clothing with offensive terminology or graphics
    – Clothing with holes/ragged or cutoff edges

    The following attire is not acceptable in FIRST or
    BUSINESS class:

    – Denim clothing of any kind or color
    – Athletic footwear
    – Split skirts above the knee
    – Skorts


    I especially love the “no denim clothing of any kind or color”. Are we back in 1960 again?

    Heil Hitler!

  6. Another comes to mind: I was shooting a network TV wildlife series for a well-known and very successful producer. He was a former cameraman so he had some specific ideas about how he wanted things shot. He wanted a loose, handheld feel to it. So I’m in Alaska out in the tundra, hiding in the bushes waiting for a huge herd of Caribou to come by. They are a few hundred yards away and I’m having to use a very long lens. Shooting that handheld would be like looking through binoculars while standing in a rowboat on the ocean. Unusable. So I put the camera on the tripod and loosened up its settings so the image would still have that loose and handheld-feeling, but actually USABLE as the subject was so far away. I nearly got into a fistfight (OK, I’m exaggerating a bit) with the field producer who was under strict orders that we were NOT to use tripods! I explained the options: no usable shots whatsoever if we stayed handheld, or very usable shots that LOOK handheld but were in fact shot from a tripod, and no one would ever know. That was not good enough as there was this RULE about NO TRIPODS. I knew the reason, I knew the producer, I shot it off the tripod, it looked great, everyone was happy. (Except the field producer.) Moral of the story: let creative people with brains use them. You might be very pleased with the results. And you might be very displeased with the results of your rules.

  7. Finally: I worked at a TV station (as Chief Photographer) where the Chief Engineer once decreed that, “we will never, ever, under ANY circumstances, air ‘home video’ on our station.” I’m glad that decree fell by the wayside before events such as 9/11, the Iraq War, the L.A. Riots, hurricane Katrina, tsunamis and earthquakes, and hundreds of other stories which were remarkably told by eyewitnesses using their home video cameras. “People perish for lack of vision.” (Proverbs 29:18) Most definitely.

  8. You must work in my organization, nonamegiven! It kills me to sit idly by, hands tied to move anything forward, while that particular go-to person is so frantically busy that I’m afraid she’s going to have a stroke. But I can’t help her, and God forbid that anyone else make a decisions.

  9. Here’s one from my early days in country TV in Australia. The chief engineer decreed that every shot that went to air had to have the brightest part of the image peak ay 100 IRE units the darkest touching 0 IRE units. This regardless of the type of shot. In bright sun this was fairly easy to adhere to, but when you were trying to shoot something slightly darker and a bit moody – all it did was wind up the video noise – even in PAL. There was a similar rule regarding audio.

  10. Christianity 1.0 uses fixed rules to control people, citing that’s the way God wants it, citing the 10 Commandments, naturally. (Hence: self-dealing.)

    Christianity 2.0 says, “There are no fixed rules, only guidelines,” citing that’s the higher way God wants it, because God doesn’t want the Devil to box-trap people under rigid-righteous dominion spirits… Higher teachers thus cite the First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other god (meaning no other fixed-rule rigid-righteous-evil-dominion sub-teacher) before God.

    You see, the more intelligence, the more freedom. The less intelligence, the less freedom in life. . Freedom matters.

    Christianity 1.0 simply dumbs people down, enslaves people to sub-taught leaders who hide self-dealing.

    Christianity 2.0 is waiting for customers.

  11. My experience has been, that sometimes there is a pervading presence of “stupid” merely because stupid “literally rules.” And stupid will continue to rule until a new culture with “no stupid rules allowed” is permitted to exist. It’s usually a biproduct of “hands off” leadership and a failure to see down through the entire organization looking for healthy systems and evaluating the need for competence and established core values. In essence, the failure to discover and rid the organization of stupidity, perpetuates stupidity.

  12. O forgot to mention that it would be stupid not to abide by the stupid rules until you can effect healthy change. Otherwise you are the stupid one without a stupid job.

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