2040’s Ideas and Innovations Newsletter, Issue 67: Why Do We Follow Rules?
Issue 67: August 4, 2022
We have been making and obeying rules since early civilization. Historical facts: The oldest written legal text is the Code of Ur-Nammu (around 2050 BC) and the most famous is the Code of Hammurabi (around 1780 BC, pictured above) both written in cuneiform. They are from ancient Sumeria in southern Mesopotamia, now southern Iraq. These early codes were social contracts among people and governments, not unlike our laws today. So, this begs the question: Why do people obey the rules considering the rules-bending culture we are living in? We wrote about why people lie, and the corollary to that may be why we obey the rules … or don’t.
Our society and our organizations exist based on rules. We may mask rules as processes, procedures, policies, regulations, laws, codes, plans, standards, guidelines or the like. Call them what you will, they guide us nearly every moment of every day.
In every instance, we seek to structure the environments we work and live in with what equates to rules, and yes even social norms, which basically set rules defining what is or isn’t acceptable.
When we consider organizational change or transformation, we are essentially seeking to change, alter or replace previous rules which sought obedience. From a systems thinking perspective, rules shape the system structure which is needed for our organizations and our society to run well, remain productive, be comfortable and predictable. As you ponder how your day-to-day is structured based on rules, let’s turn our attention to obedience…following the rules.