How to Respectfully Break The Rules

Breaking the rules and challenging the status quo can seem exciting and like a good idea. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Here is a short story and 4 top tips to remember..

Andrew and Tom (4)


In my final year of University we had to submit a project proposal. This would account for 20% of our final grade, as did all of the projects we did in our final year. As the 12 of us sat down to share our ideas, myself and a good friend on my course presented a very similar concept. We wanted to design a series of sustainable furniture that could be custom designed and evolve over time to meet people changing needs. One of our shared frustrations was people over indulging in throw away items and not buying things to last. We wanted our series to be high quality and individually customisable.

But concept aside, our idea and early drawings were almost identical.

We looked at each other as if we were on a dance floor and our favourite song came on, a sort of ‘shall we dance?’ kind of look. To us it was obvious that working together would benefit us both. We’d have a much more well rounded idea and the experience of working together on a project too. Which unless you work independently for the rest for your life, is something you have to get used to!

But in the previous 2 and half years, we didn’t get this opportunity and once again we weren’t allowed to. “You can’t. You have to submit individual projects because of the examining system”. This was a logical argument, but to us, it didn’t wasn’t a good enough reason. We both decided that the experience of working together would be more valuable than the piece of paper with a grade on at the end. We wanted to challenge the system.

We proposed that we’d produce double the amount of work and split the grade equally at the end. Regardless of the “I did more” argument. The rest of our course-mates were happy for it to happen and supported our rebellious nature. After all, it was about time for this outdated rule to change.

Our quiet confidence was duly rewarded! All we had to do now was do the work. And as we anticipated the complimentary skills sets and different ways of thinking gave us a much better project. As a bonus, our hard work paid off. Despite not being focused on getting a first class result, we did also get a top mark for the project. And hopefully we have paved the way for a better way of working. Allowing collaboration and experience to take precedent over grades and outdated systems.

It just goes to show. Standing up for what you believe in is well worth the fight!


4 Things to remember when breaking rules

1. Be respectful of the way it is now.

It is the way it is for a reason and there will most likely be a just explanation. Not one you fully agree with, but still a reason.

2. Don’t make it personal.

The person you are dealing with. Make it about the system, not them. Blame is never a helpful measure of persuasion.

3. Sell the benefits.

If you really believe it is the right thing to do, get your argument across!

4. Don’t give up straight away.

If you at first get a no. Don’t let that deter you. Change is an easy thing for people to reject. It’s much easier for thing to stay the same.


If there is anything I have forgotten to mention, please at it as a comment below. I would love yo hear your stories about how you successful challenged the rules, or what you weren’t. Keep standing up for what you think is right!

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