Rule makers, Rule breakers – a book about societies

As part of my weekend reading I took on a book about cultures. Not a typical reading of mine, but I though I would give it a try. This book is about differences in cultures from the perspective of rules, laws, principles. It is a common knowledge that some societies are very relaxed (e.g. Scandinavia) whereas some are very strict (e.g. Singapore). Commonly, we also know that the loose societies are more creative, whereas the more disciplined ones are very, well, disciplined.

This book also makes a point that it’s not as simple as that. This is not a linear relationship and there is some golden middle. Just being a loose society does not guarantee innovativeness and just being strict does not guarantee discipline. People need a “lagom” (here is a good Swedish word, meaning just right, in the middle, just enough, not too much and not too little) set of rules and looseness in the society.

When I read the book I thought about well-functioning organisations. In the companies and teams that I visit (or used to, before the pandemic), I often saw teams that were working together well with some degree of looseness, but not completely without the rules. They tend to perform well and function well when all team members understand the goals and rules of the game. I’ve also seen teams that are not able to function at all. They do not respect each other, have no respect for rules and provide no support for each other. They are “too loose” and therefore they are groups, but not really teams. At the same time I saw teams where the narcissistic boss controls everything and everything needs to go through the boss. They do not produce much, trust me.

However, there is also one more aspect – it’s where you come from. I, for that matter, cannot work in a self-organising team. I just don’t know how to find my place. One of my friends told me once – “Either you lead, or you follow or you get the hell out of the way”. Well, I’m more for that kind of the rule. Following is nice and I like it, but self-organising is so-so.

I’m actually part of a self-organised team in one of my assignments. I don’t know what to do there, I rely on a friend from the team to tell me when is my turn to speak and if I should say something or not. He also tells me when it’s a good time to do things and when it’s just a discussion. I’m not providing the name of the friend, but I’m super happy that I have him!

To sum up, I really recommend to read this book as it provides a bit wider perspective on rules in societies than the most common books from the organisational theories. It is about a normal person like me trying to find a place in life (well, by now I would actually think that this is easier, but maybe I’m just wiser to realise certain things).

Thanks for listening and tun in for the next blog post.