Creatively breaking the rules

paper flyer towercatapult

by C. Villefrance Moeller, TalesOfLeading

We did make the finest paper flyer, the highest tower and the best catapult! Just look at the pictures. Aren’t they beautiful? We won the competition on the finest paper flyer. Even though our tower was the highest is was judged “not a tower” because it wasn’t self supportive hanging from the projector with rubber bands. We thought the construction was genius. It would not fall  for the competitors bullets. Our strong and effective catapult was also judged “not a catapult” it was a ballista. Our ballista was strong and capable of shooting down the other towers. We lost the competition in the room because we didn’t solve the task.

There was no customers to judge the result as in the real world. Only a leader of the activity. He was fair to the rest of the teams, wasn’t he? He judged by the rules he had set up in advance. Is that wrong? We the creative team of cause buh him. We thought he was too strict and rigid. He was not able to think out of the box. But that was not his task nor did it contribute to the purpose of the activity. Or did it? We had fun and took a beer in the restaurant afterwards. Challenging the rules also added a bit of drama to game.

We were 30 engineers filled with creativity and very  enthusiastic competing at the social networking event in the evening.  Each of us are dedicated to research and creating the future manufacturing. All day we had been presenting our research to each other and talking about present and future challenges. In the time we had to prepare our paper flyer, tower and catapult we prototyped, tested and searched for knowledge on the internet. One of the team members found a test of different types of paper flyers ability to fly. I found it encouraging to se how the team divided it self into sub groups, working together, discussing possibilities and helping each other. Though non of us took a formal leadership and reviewed the work critically according to the defined task. Afterwards I wondered why.

Room for intrapreneurship

The social activity reminded me about entrepreneurs creating new products for markets that are not there yet. They are game changers. They brake the rules and define their own. I find this innovative and creative power fascinating. Companies like Facebook and Apple has used technology to make themselves a new markets coursing disruption of other companies business models (Christensen 1995).Just think about a company like Nokia. It was considered very innovative and raked high among places engineers wanted to work until they failed. What does it take for companies to reinvent themselves in this rapid changing environment? Are they ready for intrapreneurs breaking the rules from within?

In one company I worked in we were redefining the rules of the service we were delivering. We took distribution a bit further by stepping over the customers doorstep distributing mail and packages internal in the companies. We even won tenders on collecting blood samples from general practitioners clinics to hospital laboratories in daily “milk rounds”. Our projects was accepted because they were based on the core competences in distribution and crated interesting jobs. But we were never top priority and was hardly seen as a business area. An other reason could also be that we didn’t take resources from other projects.

Questions for you:  

  • Are you working on the task you were given?
  • Have you ever tried breaking or bending the rules for solving the task?
  • I you have, did you meet envy or jalousie from you piers or superiors?


Christensen, C. M. and Bower, J. L.: Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave, Harvard Business Review (January 1995)

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