Rules are made to be broken! Or are they?

A longer version of this aphorism is attributed to General Douglas MacArthur: “Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.”

There are two sides to this.

On the one hand, our colleague Kevin Schulman at Donor Voice effectively says “Damn the rules” when he rants about ‘best practices’ … the term of preference for ‘rules’ in the business world.

I would say Roger and I also tilt toward the rule-breaking side of the ledger, although both of us would be reluctant to fly blindly against the repeated evidence of hard data.

And on reflection, all of us have indeed seen people (entire companies and organizations) miss opportunities by hiding behind the rules, fearful of exercising judgment or discretion, taking risk, or improvising or experimenting.

On the other hand, consider this advice from Denny Hatch, who writes: Only Fools Ignore Rules. He cites ten basic marketing rules, such as:

  • Always make an offer.
  • Always make it easy to order.
  • Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs.
  • The principles of psychology are fixed and enduring.

I’m a believer in the last one. You need a mighty good reason to swim against the tide of thousands of years of human continuity!

So, my advice?

Go ahead, break a rule. But when you do, make sure you’re exploring a testable hypothesis. One that can plausibly explain why all those before you were wrong … or in other words, why the rule shouldn’t apply to you and your situation.

What marketing ‘rule’ would you like to break or prove wrong?

On the one hand, it’s OK to be wrong if you’ve learned something. On the other, if you’ve merely re-confirmed what you should have known, Denny wins the point.

Tom

 

 

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