The Purpose of Rules?

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Some time ago, I drove a rental car across a beautiful (economically) developed country.  At an intersection with a traffic light, I brought my car to a complete stop exactly 0.6 seconds AFTER the traffic light turned red, according to the surveillance camera.  And I went on with my journey.  

A few months later, I received a ticket that was long past due date.  According to the local RULE and its timeline, what awaited me was a 3-day jail term.  

A 0.6 seconds delay leads to 3 days in jail? Yes, you read it right.  ZERO point six second is not enough time to lift a finger and put it on a smartphone.  Not to mention how much time, tax payers’ money, lost productivity is involved in putting someone in jail for 3 days. The benefit? Wasted GDP. The intention? To enforce the belief that rules are supreme and beyond human, and must be obeyed all the time.  

The consequence? 

FEAR.

Fear to make mistakes. Because mistakes are punished as crimes.  

Such rule reflects a typical worldview of Expert Action Logic (to understand the term, read this article first), where the world is seen as black or white with absolute right and wrong. With this action logic, we see others as replicas of ourselves instead of their diverse, colorful and unique individuals with their personal circumstances, emotions, and challenges.  With this action logic, we impose our standards onto others and believe what’s true for us must be true for others.

With Expert Action Logic, we often focus on small details while missing the big picture.  We see experts or rules as the absolute authority, without exercising independent thinking, therefore, can be easily manipulated and controlled by ill-intentioned leaders, experts or gurus.  

At this early stage of human development, we have limited self-awareness, due to lack of self-observation and self-reflection. We emphasize cognitive intelligence while downplaying emotional and spiritual intelligence.  We take great pride in our logical thinking capabilities. We are highly competent in working with things and objects.  But we cannot yet recognize the complexity of human emotions or the potential of human spirits. Naturally, operating with this action logic makes us great individual contributors but inadequate people managers.     

It is certainly admirable that Expert Action Logic takes law enforcement seriously and brings chaos to order.  It is a huge step forward from Opportunist Action Logic, characterized by conflicts, corruptions, and instability where rules change depending on who is in power.

While every action logic has its merits and its limitations, it is impossible to cope with the 21st century’s challenges with only the Expert Action Logic. Unfortunately, a large number of organizations and societies in the so-called developed countries still control their employees and citizens with this action logic.

What is the purpose of rules? While rules are created for many reasons. Good intentioned rules exist to ensure safety and stability, as a condition, not a restriction, of more freedom. Similar to what Basic Income tries to accomplish financially. Rules are here to serve people, not the other way around. 

When we miss the big picture and create rules aimed to punish, rules become a source of all evil – FEAR. Fear stifles creativity, increases stress, prevents innovations, leads to depression, reduces productivity and destroys the condition of fulfilled lives – happiness.  

Rigid and punishment-oriented rules create a cultural environment where people are fearful of challenging the status quo, which is necessary for change and growth; people avoid admitting their own mistakes at any cost, for fear of punishment, and deprive themselves the opportunity to learn from their mistakes; people complain as if it is a national sport, because they feel powerless in controlling their own circumstances; people don’t speak up or show up authentically for fear of judgement; people are incapable of dealing with ambiguity, uncertainty, and complexity, outside of their overly sterilized and highly regulated environment. 

When we are stuck in the Expert Action Logic, we can “develop economically” with our cognitive intelligence but miss the opportunity to grow emotional and spiritual intelligence, where the true human potential exist.  

It is not that most people who live in rule-based countries operate only with Expert Action Logic.  Many have outgrown it.  Their needs for bigger space in which to experiment, to learn and to grow are restricted by fear-inducing rules created with an outdated worldview.

It is time to update rules with later stage action logic or worldview. It is time to trust people and give them opportunities to internalize their desire to do the right things, not because of fear of punishment.  It is time to encourage people to venture out, to be curious, to make mistakes, to fail and to be resilient, knowing that they are safe no matter what they do as long as their actions are guided by their best intentions. It is time to give people the freedom to be human.

This is what Teal is all about.  

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