Posted by: DrAlanRae | July 11, 2007

Is disobedience a core competency?

I’ve always been interested in what makes some people able to take the decision to “walk on water” and just get on with trying to make something happen while most are looking for a set of rules to follow. I set up the Free Spirits Club in Ecademy to discuss these issues.

Some people believe that we are hardwired to seek conformity and rules – the simpler the set the better. It’s true that if you study the way the brain works you tend to come to the conclusion that it’s a machine to take 2 and 2 and produce 5. It’s driven to produce patterns from insufficient data and these become persistent, rigid and infective. Much religious dogma seems to fall into this category.

However there does seem to be a countervailing tendency for individuals to recognise that they are trapped and to strike out on their own. Sometimes blindly, sometimes calculatedly, sometimes in a conscious attempt to achieve a balance of self expression but not at the expense of the group.  Level 7 – the yellow zone in spiral dynamics. Dudley Lynch’s book Mother of all minds is an account of his own journey.

What interests me is what can be done to facilitate and sustain the independence from group-think that’s needed to make real progress. Or is this just a meta set of rules because the only truly independent thinkers get sectioned?

This seems like a discussion worth having as it touches on many of the recurring themes of small business.  How do we build a sustainable business (which usually doesn’t involve following someone else’s simple formula), How do we stay true to ourselves, How do we steer our course between gross materialism on the one hand and utter wishful thinking on the other.

My own view is that we need to learn how to be disobedient for the common good.

I realised when I was 10 that if you played the game according to the rules you were going to lose. It’s a casino, the deck is stacked against you. Big industry and government regulation are always making life harder for the independent. But somehow we all survive in growing numbers. It’s a key competency to understand which things you can ignore and which things you can’t.

A successful operation needs just enough structure .  What we’re told to do is generally over-engineered and will result in slow death – euro-necrosis

So – how do we keep the vital spark alive?

Over to you guys.




  1. I fear much business advice pitched at startups is of the over-engineered kind. They are told to research and produce elaborate business plans when they might be better off talking to and winning their first customers. Sure, do a great business plan if you are about to seek external finance. But for a lot of other people a bit of learning-by-doing should come first.

  2. I think you’re right Ian – first couple of years of any business is a tango with the market place. Only when it starts to settle down into a pattern do you really know who the customers are and what business processes you need to deliver what they perceive as quality.

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