Friday, November 30, 2007

Rules are meant to be broken



Rules are meant to be broken, we all know that. End users of IT products and solutions seem to be particularly motivated to break rules and policies if they experience them as delimiting, creating obstacles that keep them from doing their jobs as efficiently (or conveniently) as possible. I can only look at myself. Ease of use is my primary concern with the applications and tools that I use - besides the obvious fact that they shall help me achieve my goals.

It is my belief that corporate policies and rules for how to use IT resources must always be contrasted with usability in order to find a balance that keeps them from be broken. Defining policies and rules must always be done in dialog with the users. Or put it in other words, it must be done in a tight dialog with the business. Organizations should focus on working with soft things as people’s attitudes and values just as much as they work with defining policies and rules.

A goal that is idealistic but nonetheless worth striving for is to eliminate the need for explicit governance. This can only be done by working with the attitudes and values of individuals within the organization. And by making it as easy as possible for them to do right, allowing them to see and take credit of their contributions and results. Such a system will be almost self governing. If your neighbor sees that you have broken the socially established and silently enforced community rules, he will react and ask you to respect the community and the rules that are there for its common good.

It could be an idea for the policy and rule makers to analyze why Wikipedia works. Wikipedia is really easy to use, much since few obstacles have been implemented in the Wikipedia user interface in order to prevent policies and rules (conventions) to be broken. At the same time, it is really simple to use and to break the rules. But, as is stated on Wikipedia:

"There is no need to worry about accidentally damaging Wikipedia when adding or improving information, as other editors are always around to advise or correct obvious errors, and Wikipedia's software, known as MediaWiki, is carefully designed to allow easy reversal of editorial mistakes."

Since the general attitude and values that are enforced by the Wikipedia community is that quality is everybody’s responsibility, the community is more or less self governing. And isn’t this what web 2.0 is all about? Ease of use. Trust. Openness. Collective social governing. All based on the belief that we will all benefit from high quality content and experiences on the web. What if that could be a nautural thing within an enterprise context as well?