Why it Pays to Break the Rules in Work

Why it Pays to Break the Rules in Work

In the past I haven’t always been the most compliant employee, when asked to do something, I’d often question my bosses as to the reason why things were being done. I found it easy to ask the difficult question, always to get a better understanding form my bosses as to their motivation and beliefs behind the project. These questions and answers always encouraged more commitment in my work when I set about the task. Sometimes I’d challenge the methodology and process to complete the task, usually to the annoyance of my team leader. All the while I thought, maybe I’d be more suited to working by myself or for myself. But the reality is I love working in groups and love the new ideas and new thoughts that differences of opinion bring. As it turns out Rebels are the “saviour of the modern work place” according to Francesca Gino in her book, Rebel Talent: Why it pays to break the rules in Work and Life...  Gino is the youngest woman to achieve the position of full professor at Harvard Business School.

Cactus Plant

Challenging work perceptions through plants.

Gino argues in her book that when we follow well-accepted rules and norms in business without question we become less happy and successful. To counter the challenges that conforming can bring she suggests an approach; Break, Transform, Create.  Gino says that rebels that go against convention, that do things in their own way, can achieve unprecedented success and foster an open, innovative and creative working environment amongst their wider teams. So I may be a rebel, well at least in my own little world, but it’s reassuring to know that my attitude is now formally recognised as having a positive influence in the workplace!

Last week I facilitated a workshop in Facebook offices Dublin for a group of staff and the topic of rules came up. We were making terrariums in small glass jars and larger glass containers. As part of the design I suggested incorporating plants of different size, colour and leaf texture. One of the glass jars was quite small and I suggested putting only two plants in it! Of course even numbers are not recommended as a rule of planting design. One of the participants rightly pointed this out to me and wondered why I would suggest this, as once rules are formed people don’t like breaking them. I said that it’s the exception that makes the rule. A very interesting discussion about rules in the workplace naturally unfolded in the group. In the end the terrarium was made with two plants, I’ve added a photo and you can decide the validity of this little rule.

Facebook Workshop May 2018

Being a rebel with plants in the office space.

So my session with the Facebook team really got me thinking. As a business leader if you want to encourage creative thinking amongst colleagues, perhaps you could set the scene and be creative with the office space to show that sometimes it’s ok to break the rules. Here are three little ideas about how to do this with plants.

  1. Bring Mexico to one whole floor – plant cacti and succulents only on one floor and make the planting scheme dramatic. Most modern offices are ideal for growing cacti with large windows, bright light and high temperatures.
  2. Get dirty with the staff – actively encourage your colleagues to use the available outdoor space to plant and grow seeds. This has huge benefits as people are allowed to disconnect from work for a period allowing space to creatively think and solve problems.
  3. Creative workshops – run regular workshops with employees, hands on making and doing, allowing your colleagues to mentally and physically step out of their work space and become creative.

Towering Cactus Skyscraper in Qatar


I really enjoyed coming up with these ideas. There’s no limit to the benefits of bringing plants and people together. Contact me today and together we’ll grow your business. Click here for more information today 



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