Sometimes it seems like the only thing Governments do is legislate, and when they campaign they say they are going to cut unnecessary legislation and yet they increase it every time. Let’s give them some ideas about what kinds of legislation are possible:
1. Legislation for which law breaking is punished – the usual sort, and you would think that this is the only type as they always introduce things to control people and organisations which deviate from the plan.
2. Legislation for which law breaking is allowed unless it really seems to cause more problems than it is worth.
This is how legislation is seen by most countries but not the UK. I remember in Lisbon when I commented on all the cars parked on the pavement, being told that there are people who go round putting tickets on the cars but nobody ever pays them.
So this kind of legislation is a kind of option list, something available should it be needed rather than something to be held to tightly.
3. Legislation which is enabling rather than commanding. Butler’s 1944 Education Act was a masterpiece of enabling legislation and I had always thought it was a novelty, but now I find that the Artisan’s Dwellings Act of 1875 was similar, it allowed local authorities to ’embark – if they so desired – on slum clearance schemes and the building of ‘housing estates’.’
This is the ‘only half a hand on’ kind of Governance, which is good in not being overcontrolling where you wouldn’t know best anyway but is has faults in being open to abuse by people who have knowledge and power more than others, so more controlling legislation is then needed to correct misuse.
In many ways the issues of legislation are the same for companies as for Governments. Bosses who make too many rules tend to limit opportunities and innovation, so good bosses usually offer smart ways to permit people to do things and give guidance with just hints of limits rather than controlling boundaries.
There seems to be a general contradiction in size of company and ability to innovate based on how strong the rule governing needs to be to control abuse. The answer would seem to be devolution of decision making down to a level which matches the task, which would lead to variations in what you get depending on where you are in the organisation, but we have to live with that as a consequence of not being overgoverned.
This is where I come to a 4th type of legislation:
4: Creative legislation. This is legislation at a higher level, like the US Constitution, but it could be something even simpler like legislating that any term of parliament can only introduce 20 pieces of legislation in their term of office and must rescind at least that number in order to do so.
This would slow down the ludicrous rush to legislate on everything, and a history of Britain shows how ineffective most legislation is, so don’t get too worried.
It would also have the nice twist that once 20 pieces of legislation have gone through then parliament can only contemplate, which might be no bad thing anyway!
One creative piece of company legislation was 3M when they said people in the company could devote 10% of their time on their own projects. The downside to this was that many people worked more than 10% unpaid overtime anyway, but the intent was good.
It is our reasoning brain that seems to demand controlling legislation, rules, boundaries, and our intuitive brain that rebels against them, wanting a bigger picture. So, let’s add some more creative thinking, and stand back and look at how a bit of each is no bad thing, and how too much of any one of them is not so good.