Intelligent disobedience

Through the Linkedin learning course by Bob McGannon, I became acquainted with the idea of intelligent disobedience. I think the premise that he lays out is pretty interesting. That the human world is made of many rules and usually, 95% of the time, these rules work but then there is always 5% of the time when it doesn’t. This is when circumstances are extraordinary, when the situation is not as expected by the rule-makers and so on.

The exceptions are what calls for intelligent disobedience. After all, the reason that a person should be put in a job is not because he knows all the rules on the job. He needs needs to be able to follow, but more importantly, he needs to know when to break them. If rule-following is all it takes, then the cockpit of most commercial aircraft technically don’t require pilots. It is the need to take exceptional actions that we need professionals to take certain roles.

Talents are basically known to be the ones who break rules. They don’t get punished for them; in fact more often than not, they are celebrated. Philip Yeo is a good example of that in Singapore. In fact, he probably exhibited most traits of intelligent disobedience in most of his stories of defiance that he recorded in his book, “Neither civil nor servant”. To a large extent, risk-taking involves a lot more nuanced thinking than the manner our Singaporean culture allows for.