Rules reduce learning

A New Zealand School ditches the safety rules for its playground, and gets some pretty amazing results. The Principal comments:

The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.

I wouldn’t conclude that we should have no rules – but it’s a salutary warning of their unintended, often adverse, consequences. It’s particularly interesting to see this experiment taking place in an educational environment. So much training wants to teach us the rules for doing things, but in doing so removes the adventure of learning that often “teaches” us much better.

Reminds me of the Dutch traffic experiments of Hans Monderman. Also this about a Stephen Adshead post:

Max Weber argued many years ago that the logic of bureaucracy is the tendency to privilege procedural rationality (the rationality of rules) over substantive rationality (the rationality of ends). There is a temptation – in the face of uncertainty and risk everywhere – to increase the rules and the systems; to shape human behaviour by sheer bloody effort of will.

This influences my approach to difficult conversations: rather than teaching dubious general rules for how to have them, I’m much more interested in creating lots of experimentation so people can discover for themselves what works.

Hat tip: Viv’s tweet

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