A few years ago I read an article in The Evening Standard.
It was about seven masochists and seven sadists.
All men, they would meet up every so often for group sex sessions.
The sadists would perform various brutal acts on the masochists.
One I particularly remember, was the sadists would nail the masochists’ scrotums to planks of wood.
Not my cup of tea, but they all enjoyed it.
No harm done.
Except they were all arrested and taken to court.
The sadists were charged with GBH (causing grievous bodily harm).
The masochists were charged with ‘accessory before and after the fact’.
Because the masochists were assisting the sadists in breaking the law.
The sadists got prison, and the masochists got probation.
Even though the masochists testified in court that they were willing participants.
They enjoyed it, they even sought it.
So how could it be an assault?
Personally I take the view that anything’s okay as long as you fulfil three criteria.
It’s got to be between Consenting. Adults. In Private.
If you tick those three boxes, whatever you do is no one else’s business.
It didn’t matter.
Under the strict interpretation of the law what the sadists had done was an assault.
Damage to someone else’s physical person.
Whether the other person wanted it, enjoyed it, whatever.
It didn’t matter.
They deliberately broke the law, ‘with malice aforethought’.
There was no room for ‘extenuating circumstances’.
No room for feelings.
No room for judgement.
No room for interpretation.
Just the simple literal application of the rules.
This is actually and deliberately quite thoughtless.
A process without intuitive leaps.
Certainly a process without any creativity.
It doesn’t leave the possibility open to find a better solution.
All you get is the implementation of the same rules as everyone else.
But then that’s the idea of the law.
It’s supposed to be fair to everyone.
Regardless of social-class, age, sexual-preference, religious-persuasion, race, whatever.
That’s why Justice, the statue on top of the Old Bailey, wears a blindfold.
To signify implementing the rules regardless.
But, as we’ve just seen, even for the law it’s not always right.
How can it possibly be a good general business principal?
Especially in our business.
Blindly imposing the rules is the opposite of what we do.
The opposite of creativity.
Where we need to think outside the rules.
To take unfair advantage.
We want something the competition can’t see coming.
Something they won’t expect.
And we won’t get that by following the same rules as them.
We get that by an intuitive leap.
A leap which won’t show up to people who can only read a balance sheet.
A balance sheet only shows you how things are after they’ve happened.
A balance sheet can’t show you something before it’s happened.
You need vision for that.
You need judgement.
You need to feel what’s going to work.
Then after it’s worked, everyone can see it.
Then they can copy it, and enter it on the balance sheet.
But they couldn’t do that beforehand.
Because you can’t see the future before it’s happened.
So you can’t measure it.
You can’t put an exact value on it.
You can only do that afterwards.
As Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards. Unfortunately it must be lived forwards,”
That takes an intuitive leap.
That takes creativity.
As Steve Jobs said, “It’s not the public’s job to know what they’re going to want. It’s my job to know what they’re going to want.”