Silly Rules

Mindcamp Random

by Ken Wall

sillyrulesMy very good friend and business colleague Tim Hurson is based in Toronto. Our businesses are very similar. A few years ago we started our collection of Silly Rules, mostly based on personal experiences. Maybe one day we’ll write the book!

The starting point was a pub on Southbank in Melbourne, Tim was visiting and we were in need of refreshment, se we asked for two pots (small glasses) of a particular beer. No such luck! The barman told us that that particular beer was only sold in pints (big glasses). Obviously we asked why? “That’s the rules!” said the barman. Given that Tim and I both specialise in creativity, as you can imagine we found a solution very quickly – we asked for one pint – and then requested a small glass – so that we could share two small beers. The barman didn’t mind at all – apparently that was within the rules!

My wife Angela doesn’t eat much bread. At a local cafe recently she ordered a sandwich, specified the type of bread and the ingredients – and then told the person making the sandwich that she didn’t want the top slice of bread – a reasonable request you would have thought? “Sorry,” said the girl, “I can’t do that!” The obvious question from Angela – and the expected answer, “It’s against the rules!”

One of my favourite silly rules is on a sign you see everywhere on the London Underground…. “Dogs must be carried at all times.” But what if you don’t have a dog? Does that mean you are not allowed to travel on the underground…?

And one more a little nearer to home in Melbourne. A few years ago it was all the rage to install water tanks in the garden given the on-going drought in Australia. One of the major energy companies had the brilliant idea to offer water tanks at ‘very special’ prices based on a quotation from one of their experts. So I called them to arrange for an expert to come along to give me a quotation, only to discover that the fee for the quotation was $65. “Don’t worry about the $65,” said the telephone sales person, “You’ll get that back when you place the order!” “But what if I don’t order from you?” “Then you lose the money, that’s the rules,” said the salesperson!

I wonder if they had anyone take them up on the offer? We certainly didn’t and went on to get three quotes from other suppliers at no cost and ended up with an excellent installation at a good price. It’s just hard to imagine that someone in a back office somewhere actually sat down and thought of the $65 idea in the first place – and then decided to make it a rule! If only that one brain cell had found another one to talk to…!

If you have some examples of silly rules and silly ideas we would love to hear from you.

Ken Wall is, among other things, Chairman of ABCD: Art Building Children’s Dreams (Australia). He got the idea when he met Frank Smith at Mindcamp in 2008 and 2009… and we’ve been trying to persuade him to return ever since. Help us by “liking” this post, or by posting a Silly Rule you’ve found! Meanwhile, here’s the mother of them all: