If you were to ask your average person if they enjoyed being constrained by rules, most would beg to differ. It's a geeky and dare I say anal-retentive notion to be fans of the rules. Despite what most of us claim, we rely on and find safety in rules. When driving blog traffic, we all know that titles are "click bait." What sort of titles tend to drive the most clicks? Ones with titles "How to _____" or "10 ways you can make ______ better." I know with my own website that titles like these drive a ton of traffic, regardless of the quality of the content within the actual post. So what makes these types of posts so popular?
They give us safety in the rules. Checklist posts give people guidelines for success. This + that = success. If we have a guideline on how to succeed, we can't fail right? Searching for these lists give us safety and security. There's less risk of failure if we take the road most traveled. Most of all, following the rules is easy. Seth Godin elaborates more on this in his book Tribes when talking about factories:
"The second reason we have factories has nothing to do with efficiency and a lot to do with human nature. Part of us wants stability. We want the absence of responsibility that a factory job can give us. The idea of "I'm doing what you told me to" is very compelling, especially if the alternative is foraging for food or begging on the streets. So when factories showed up, we ran to join them."
Factories exist based on sets of rules. It's less risky to be a cog in a machine than take a leap of faith. However, when the factories fall and the rules can't protect us, the cogs have less security than the risk takers at the end of the day.
The Success of Social Gaming
Games like Farmville and Mafia Wars - as annoying as they are to non-players - have thrived on people playing by the rules. Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR talks about Farmville in particular regarding these rules. Players are required to water crops at certain times and perform other tasks as the game instructs them. In a nutshell, humans are voluntarily agreeing to adjust their lifestyles and schedules according to a set of virtual rules. If that doesn't prove the natural human tendency to seek out guidelines, I don't know what does. The entirety of this video is shown below (subscribers may have to click through).
Godin clearly states in Tribes that leaders don't hide behind rules but challenge the status quo, throwing themselves on the line and risking absolute failure. Where do you fit? Do you live the safe life of the cog in a wheel?
Do the cogs see greater long-term success?
Is there anything even wrong with safety in the rules? Where do you see the balance?
- The modern tech CEO: Barefoot and 21 (cnn.com)
- Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer Is Coming. Let's Make It Awesome. (huffingtonpost.com)
- SCVNGR Releases Facebook Places Application for Businesses (mashable.com)