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What The Office Rule-Breakers and 8% of Bees Have In Common

What The Office Rule-Breakers and 8% of Bees Have In Common
Chris Moriarity

I don’t follow the rules.

I don’t lie, steal or cheat, but I’m going to color outside the lines if I feel I need to. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this trait is incredibly irritating to a lot of people but especially the rule-followers.


Now, I’m no anarchist. I actually love rules…for other people. Helps things stay predictable and keeps everyone rowing in the same direction. However, indulge me for the next few paragraphs as I attempt to shed some light on why the lone-wolf in the office might not be the worst thing in the world.


Think back to biology class—remember the lesson about the bees? Not the birds and the bees…that’s the next article. For today, just focus on the bees.

Each day certain bees leave the hive in search of flowers. Once they find them, they fly back to the hive and through a series of dances, communicate to the other bees where to find the flowers. Then, naturally, the bees all take off and do what bees do.

Here’s where it gets interesting. They estimate that 8% of bees simply don’t follow the directions and take off in any direction they see fit.  Who knows why they do this. I can’t imagine they’re really making a choice; that seems like an awful lot of thinking for a bee.


Anyway, what winds up happening is these bees find the new flowers and ultimately the next food source for the hive. I can only picture the rule-fooling bees, chatting it up by the pollen-cooler. Irritated as all get-out that Doug and Randy just do whatever they want.


What’s interesting to me is that most people (and bees) assume that their 8% are going against the rules out of spite. I have to assume this is rarely the case. Might it be that the prospect of failing is much scarier when you’re calling your own shots?

If you fail following the rules, there’s a lot of comfort there. You did what you were told and the outcomes that follow are a reflection of policy. You’re still a good person.

If you fail on your idea, it’s scarier. So, why do the non-rule followers seem to do this? Sometimes we find those new flowers…and it changes everything.

I’m not suggesting we all start flying in different directions, but for a business to grow you want to have an 8%. Make sure someone is testing the boundaries to make sure we know where the boundaries are. If you not growing, you’re dying. You can only go back to the same flower so many times.

And to the 8%, keep it in check. Finding flowers that only you can get to helps no one. Forge roads not paths. Take copious notes and don’t leave the hive behind. You need them more than they need you.  It’s only due to that stability you can spread those wings in the first place.

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