Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Art of Innovation event where Guy Kawasaki (best-selling author, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and former chief evangelist of Apple) was the keynote speaker.

He shared his 10 tips regarding the “art of innovation” and one was regarding the use of PowerPoint slides. He said when giving presentations, the “10-20-30 rule” should be followed. Your presentation should only have: 10 slides. Be 20 minutes long. Using 30 point font.

As he was sharing this tip, he noted that he was not following this rule (he was well over 10 slides), and his response was that the rule applied to us, not him. And then he said, “Because you are not me.” It was definitely a “do as I say, not as I do moment,” and pretty funny!

There are many times that the rules only apply to some people (think PG-13 ratings or words not to be used by anyone under 16) or are known by people, yet still ignored. Whether it’s fair or not is another matter, the reality is, in business (and life), you’ll want to know which rules you can and cannot break.

We’re the adventurous type, so rules can seem a bit…confining to us. However, before anyone goes breaking any rules, it’s wise to consider the following:

1) Observe Your Surroundings. What are people around you doing? Ever arrive to an event over-dressed? At least you look good, but you might be a bit uncomfortable. What feels worse is probably arriving under dressed. Note: Working in fashion, we see people break the rules here all the time. The right confidence, attitude and style can get away with it. (If you have to ask if that’s you, then it’s probably not.) It’s important to get a sense of how things are in an environment – whether it’s in your business or out at a cocktail reception or networking event. If you’re going to be a rule breaker, own that –  as perhaps that’s what makes you different in your industry, but, know when it might really work against you. Which brings us to…

2) Know the Rules. You won’t know whether you need to break a rule, unless you know one exists. If you’re driving down a road at 50mph and learn that the speed limit is 70mph, well, you could’ve got where you were going a lot faster had you known the speed limit (i.e. rule to follow on the road).

Sometimes people thing they’re breaking rules, but what they’re doing isn’t all that rebellious after all. Some rules, like a rule to have no rules, can actually allow for more creativity. Know the rules as it relates to your company, collaborations, working with your vendors, etc. Knowing the rules that you’d like to adhere to as a professional, your values, what you’re willing and not willing to do, will help to establish clear expectations for your business.

3) Weigh the Consequences. If you’re going to ignore sound advice or rules, you’ll want to know the repercussions. Let’s say you see a bunch of people breaking the rules, is it OK then? For instance, if your company decides to “cheat” in a social media contest by purchasing votes (e.g. buying Twitter followers to show “perceived” influence and engagement) because everyone else is doing it. Does that make it OK? For some people, this becomes ‘strategy’ or a ‘smart move’, however, the reality may be the fine print that clearly states it’s not allowed and gets you kicked out of the contest. Or perhaps there is no fine print, and it becomes a matter of principle. You get kicked out of the contest, business is embarrassed, feelings are hurt, etc. etc. – it’s just not worth it. And what if you didn’t know any better and it was inadvertently done? See aforementioned rule (know the rules!).

It’s true, once you reach a certain level of success, some rules don’t apply (and why some celebrities will never stand in a line again, they just walk to the front), but most successful people have an understanding of what is allowed and not allowed. Knowing which rules can (should) be broken often comes with experience and the building of credibility over time.

In what ways have you followed or broken the rules in your business? What were the results?

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