Policies foster laziness.

With polices, you don’t have to think—you don’t have to consider, dialog or listen. You don’t have to take responsibility for your choice. You can just refer to the Policy: You can say, “Sorry, that’s just our Policy”.

Having said that, we’ve been discussing just such a thing for a creative department where I contract. It started out as a letter to an irksome PM, and was never sent because we met face to face instead. But the points were good; They spelled out specific tips for optimizing productivity within the department. Also, presented as a policy, it is highly unlikely that it will be taken personally or as a criticism.

These are good and useful things.

This quandary brings to mind the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and the Pirates’ Code. Remember? “They’re more like guidelines.”

I did a search on the string, “more like guidelines”, and wow! In addition to kajillions of references to the quote within a vast range of topics (including a request to translate it into Latin), I banged right into the current debate about the proposed Bloggers’ Code of Conduct (visit the Blogging Wikia if you want to join the discussion). In fact, someone responded to the hoopla by registering the URL, morelikeguidelines.com, but the site is neglected and even a little abused.

Maybe it’s a Human Evolution thing. We don’t need Ten Commandments anymore (if we ever did). What I look for these days is more like Ten Clues to My New Client’s Corporate Culture, or Ten Tips for Working with Our Department. Of course, there’s also Ten Things to be Aware of When You Babysit My Kid.

Policies, even codes, can help web users identify their preferred content, professionals navigate new business relationships, and many other intricate situations. However, we need to leave room for creativity and innovation of all sorts, like the inexperienced PM who is overflowing with ideas (but telling you how to do your job) or the enthusiastic blogger who peppers brilliant insights with unnecessary expletives.

In the end, it will depend on the individuals living those codes or tips or policies. Are they using them to control, even eliminate dialog? or to cultivate it?


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