Sunday, June 29, 2014

What the Lucan Case can Teach us about Rule Making

While much of the debate about school boy hair length has made for lazy TV stories, emotion and re-visiting personal convictions of various “commentators” there are some useful lessons here – highlighted by the judgment.

These largely boil down to trying make useful rules if we choose rules to achieve our goals. We might well note the following:

Making efficient rules involves giving thought to both content and process. In turn:


  1. Rules should be certain and to the greatest extent possible they should avoid ambiguity. Since we don't necessarily want rules to be utterly unchanging forever, clear specified processes for changing them (amongst which parental grandstanding is unlikely to be a good candidate) are helpful;
  2. It is preferable that the content of rules does not involve requirements which can be seen to be hypocritical (rule makers disobeying or near disobeying their own rules) or grossly inconsistent;
  3. Rules which seek to impose subjective judgments are typically troublesome. Seeking to justify such impositions by reference to committees, boards or other small collectives does not overcome the basic flaw; 
  4. Content even remotely approaching “fashion” is subjective. There are no logical constructs which allow its objective evaluation; and,
  5. Remedies and sanctions ought to be spelt out. Those should be proportionate (transportation to the colonies or capital punishment for theft of a loaf of bread is not proportionate by most measures), enforceable and easily understood.


  1. The granting of unfettered discretion to single individuals to interpret, enforce and apply remedies is typically troublesome.  The weaker the content of rules (see above) the worse this problem becomes;
  2. Enforcement and remedial measures should be spelt out before the fact – i.e. when the rule is introduced. Wildly swinging about grabbing for any action which might annoy the rule breaker does not qualify as considered, reasonable practice;
  3. Proportionate application of flexibility in administering rules is useful. It adds to the credibility of the rule, the rule maker and the rule enforcer. Unwarranted entrenched behaviour tends to beget entrenched behaviour.
  4. The abuse of any aspect of the process – from rule design to enforcement – for the purposes of asserting authority for its own sake is both unacceptable and likely to lead to ridicule.

Rule making can be a process which is then “simple” but not “easy”. Less is typically more especially when objectives are unclear, motivations are suspect and the love of good “copy” overwhelms considered thought.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Do not confuse attitude with randomness…

Kevin Roberts – ever a source of original ideas and their applications reports here…..

The message is not that people are “lucky” or “unlucky”…. the message is that truly random processes are very different indeed from systematic behaviour:

Apparently you can. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, has spent the past decade studying what makes people luckier than others. We know these people: The ones who win random spot prizes, have golden opportunities land in their laps, nail their dream job, and their soulmate.

I’ve never believed that luck is random. Lotto is, sure. But not happiness, and that’s ultimately what people equate lucky people with. Wiseman understands this too and set out to rationalize it. As you might guess, thoughts and behavior play a major role in the situations we find ourselves in, and the opportunities we see and embrace.

One of Wiseman’s tests was to give both lucky and unlucky people, as they had deemed themselves to be, a newspaper. The task? Search through the sheets counting the number of photographs inside. The unlucky took about two minutes, while the lucky wrapped it up in just seconds. On the second page of the paper, Wiseman had planted a half-page message: "Stop counting.

There are 43 photographs in this newspaper." For fun he placed a second large message at the mid-point saying: "Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250." The unlucky missed that too.
Wiseman’s conclusion is that unlucky people are generally much more tense and anxious than lucky people.

They’re creatures of habit and don’t often listen to their gut instincts or act impulsively. They’re overly analytical, and as a result, don’t notice the unexpected. But it’s behavior that can be changed. Through Wiseman’s ‘luck school’ he got his volunteers to carry out exercises to make them behave like a lucky person. And it worked. As they say, you make your own luck.