Rules for intelligent disobedience

Bob McGannon introduces some rules for breaking the rules when talking about intelligent disobedience which I found to be useful in general even without considering the notion of intelligent disobedience. He suggested some really quick considerations:

  1. Do it as an exception: only when the standard rules don’t work.
  2. Don’t do it in stealth: Convey your intention and explain the reasons you’re breaking the rules.
  3. Not to be passive aggressive: you don’t play nice and say you’re going to follow the rules and then leave your boss’ room and then break them.
  4. Don’t break the law: if a rule is based on a law, you need to make sure that you’re not acting in a manner that breaks the law.

Why putting these ideas upfront is important for management and also within the context of any organisation is that you want people to be acting intelligently and have a clear robust process for exceptions. It doesn’t mean you create extra bureaucracy; if anything, it is to allow people to act wisely and be allowed to face the music later if they agreed it is a mistake.

Within an organisation, by introducing these ideas, you empower employees and treat them maturely as individuals rather than a cog in the system. In practically all areas of life, when we need people to be more autonomous, we naturally will end up hiring the best people.

What should capital chase?

The previous two posts are really just preparing me for this final one about returns on capital. We have talked about the aspirations of labour and that perhaps capital should be more like labour, where it is not just trying to get a return to multiply itself, but actually to look to more qualitative returns as well. But how would capital do that?

We see examples of this done using state capital. The government uses its capital to invest into public infrastructure, education or even public housing; all of these drives returns at broad economic and social levels. And this can generate more taxes in the future but the idea of the government isn’t to actually be able to generate more taxes in the future. Having more taxes is good because it can sustain the pace of these investments but the actual return is what the society reap in terms of better standards of living, greater knowledge in the people and so on.

Yet private capital holders are not exactly thinking this way. Private capital holders act as if most of what matters is that invested capital reaps more capital. And imagine if this was applied to the government, that it simply invests more so as to gain more taxes. It might end up investing in more coercive approaches to extracting more taxes. Or to just invest in areas that gives it more power.

If companies starts developing a vision of the future and of the world it wants to build, and define the returns on capital as what gains the world get in steps towards those vision, one could expect businesses to behave differently. In other words, we start investing the way we would want to be able to practice charity or giving effectively. We put our money where there can be most impact and action towards the future we want to see in the world. The returns come when we are able to step into the future that we had envision, not when the money flows back in. In most cases, if that future in our vision materialises, the monetary gains should come in to sustain that vision. If it doesn’t, then something is missing somewhere, and you either find another vision or path to invest into, or harness further resources needed to move towards that.