What “Rules” Have You Established, and Actually Follow? – Here are my 5 Lessons and Takeaways from the book Simple Rules

Simple RulesSo, what “rules” do you follow?

Do you make it a rule to write down your grocery list?

Do you make it a rule to put your keys in the same place each night?

Do you make it a rule to load up your car the night before your big event?

We all work better with rules. And, when we don’t have a rule for a specific behavior, we can get in trouble – in a hurry.

I recently presented my synopsis of Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt. And, it made me more intent on making and following more simple rules in my own life – my work life, and my life overall.

Here are some insights from this useful book:

• Simple Rules contains the simple rules for creating and applying simple rules. There are three ‘rules for rules’:

#1 — Figure out what will move the needle
#2 — Choose a bottleneck, a constraint that is holding you back
#3 — Craft the rules

• A couple of important concepts:

  • Not self-help platitudes; but actual, simple rules…
  • “Strategy as Simple Rules…”

• Rules for making better decisions include:

#1 – Boundary Rules — help decide between two mutually exclusive alternatives
     • Boundary rules can help you decide between two mutually exclusive alternatives, like whether bail should be granted or denied.  
#2 – Prioritizing Rules — provide the basis for ranking alternatives
     • Prioritizing rules rank options to decide which alternatives will receive limited resources, such as medical care during battle or cash in a startup.
#3 — Stopping Rules — when do we reverse a decision or take a different course
     • Stopping rules dictate when to reverse a decision. They provide guidance, for example, on when to sell a stock, end the search for a mate, or descend from a treacherous mountaintop.

• Rules for doing things better include:

#4 — How to Rules – guide the basics of executing tasks
#5 — Coordination Rules – getting things done when there are multiple actors
#6 — Timing Rules – guidelines for when to take action

• Personal simple rules should help you:

  • do more of what makes your life work better
  • You can raise the top needle by doing more of what makes life worth living…  
  • do less of what makes your life not work well at all…
  • You can also create personal value by lowering the bottom needle, which represents problematic areas, such as money worries or poor health, that prevent you from getting the most out of life.

• And here are my lessons and takeaways:

#1 – People need guidelines and directions. Simple rules can provide just what they need.
#2 – Companies/organizations need guidelines and directions. So do sales teams, and designers, and… Simple rules can provide just what is needed.
#3 – You need to constantly refine, improve, and simplify your simple rules.
#4 – We are not great at making decisions. Simple rules can make us better.
#5 – We are not great at getting things done. (“how-to”). Simple rules can make us better.


Though I wrote about this earlier, after reading this book, I came up with:

• Randy’s Six Rules of Business Book Selections:

#1 – A best-seller (or, a chance to be a best-seller).
#2 – A book that is useful – i.e., helpful in the pursuit of doing work better.
#3 – A book that has “buzz,” or reflects the “Zeitgeist.”
#4 – A book published by a major publisher.
#5 – A book that I like, and want to read.
#6 – And, these days, a book that is available on the Kindle App.


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