What are the Simple Rules for writing?

QUOTE: “How can people manage the complexity of the modern world?” they write. “Our answer, grounded in research and real-world results, is that simple rules tame complexity better than complex solutions.” [1]

QUOTE:  To be effective, the book says, simple rules must meet four conditions: They must be:

  • limited in number,
  • tailored to the person or organization using them,
  • applied to well-defined activities, and
  • open to giving people latitude to exercise discretion. [2]

QUOTE: The authors identify two types of simple rules: Those that can help you make decisions and those that can help you do things.

  • Decision rules set boundaries, prioritize alternatives, and establish stopping points.
  • Process rules help people execute tasks, coordinate group action, and establish the proper timing of tasks. [3]

NOTES: From the book of Proverbs to the sayings of Jesus, human beings have sought to use principles or rules to increase the quality of life. Jesus in Mat 7:24-28: “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; 27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Stephen Covey called this Principle-Centered Leadership in several phenomenally influential books [4]. Rather than make a plan which will soon be out of touch with a rapidly changing reality, we develop principles which are highly effective at dealing with universal human situations. Covey, for example, wrote about seven habits of highly effective people and several principles that went with them. We have the principle to guide us, but must think it through before applying it to a specific context and process.

Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt call it Simple Rules [5]. Rather than universal principles which must be thoughtfully applied in specific cases, simple rules are developed by the people who use them to enhance their productivity in their very specific contexts and processes. With simple rules, no thinking is required before acting; thinking occurs during the rule crafting process and when there is leisure for evaluation. This means that persons can act without hesitation in applying their personalized simple rules. Rapid response to a problem can sometimes significantly enhance positive outcomes.

If simple rules tame complexity better than complex solutions, what are the simple rules that will help me with my complexity regarding writing?

QUESTIONS for thinking it through:

Do you live by rules and principles now? Can you name them?

What simple rules do you use now to act in certain situations? What are your Decision Rules? What are your Process Rules? What would your habits indicate? Are they clearly in focus and known to you, or largely instinctual?

What sort of complexity or chaos exists in your life at the present? Could Simple Rules help tame it?

Who do you know who needs to hear about Simple Rules? Why? Does their experience correspond with your situation?


[1] Conquering Complexity With Simple Rules: A Stanford professor offers a better way to make decisions by Theodore Kinni/April 14, 2015, at https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/conquering-complexity-simple-rules

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Stephen Covey, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Covey

[5]  Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_Rules:_How_to_Thrive_in_a_Complex_World

The photo is by geralt and is from Pixabay.

QUOTE (emphasis mine):


NOTE (my commentary)


What gets my attention?
Do I understand the need or problem?
Do I understand the potential solution?
Do I understand how to apply that strategy?
What questions do I have for the experts? What might be the answers?
Who needs to hear this?
What do I do next?

SOURCE – Footnotes:

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