The Idea Dude


Monday, September 14, 2009

How rules make us forget common sense

There was a road rage incident recently that gave rise to an interesting article in our local paper. It postulated that the reason why our traffic issues are getting worse and not better is because we have too many rules. Rules give people a sense of entitlement and in the heat of the moment, we use the rules as ways of establishing our rights even though our common sense may say otherwise.

It all makes perfect sense. In many countries, lawyers use precedents and laws to get clients off on technicalities even if it may be clear that they were indeed guilty. Driving on our roads, I often see people accelerate to close gaps or push in when they could slide in behind instead. Somehow, understanding how the rule may work to our advantage gives us the right to do the wrong thing. Perhaps there is a Darwinian gene in us that warns us that if we are to survive, the weak must die. Somehow we have mistaken meek for weak.

Of course, without rules the concept of full-blown anarchy may even be a worse alternative.

Nevertheless, what happened to using our common sense and discretion? Can we even trust ourselves to do the right thing when called to do so? Or do we cop out by simply justifying taking the low road with the excuse that we were just following the rules.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as we have the general structure in place, it seems that processes run better without specific rules. A perfect example of this is the Swindon Magic Roundabout in England ( There are no traffic lights or crosswalks, yet it successfully "provides a better throughput of traffic than other designs and has a better safety record" (

I had the opportunity to meet Dave Snowden a while back, who introduced this idea during his speech. He gets very technical in his exploration of setting structures and letting new patterns emerge. If you're interested, there is more available on his website:

I enjoy reading your blogs, keep up the great work!

6:01 PM  
Blogger The Idea Dude said...

The roundabout example came to mind when I wrote this too. Thank you for sharing.


8:47 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home