Do you have a creativity rulebook? Recently I encountered a very interesting take on the idea of rules whilst watching Stephen Tomkinson’s Australian balloon adventure on ITV1. In Melbourne there is a road called Hosier Lane where many graffiti artists work. The mere thought of graffiti signals anarchy to most people or perhaps fond memories of Banksy.

Hosier Lane is completely covered in graffiti and it was intriguing to note that there are ‘rules’ that govern the whole process of applying graffiti. First of all there are real regulations about who can actually spray paint (you need a license), what types of paint you can use etc. then there are the unwritten rules. For instance, who decides when it is allowable to paint over existing graffiti?

It seems that the rules make themselves. If a work is greatly admired then it will survive for a long time, if not and other tags or drawings encroach on it then that is the signal for some urban redecoration. It is also allowable for existing works to be enhanced by adding to them, perhaps a butterfly tastefully applied.

Now let us step back in time and imagine what sort of discussions took place when the graffiti was first put there. All of the existing rules would have been applied in rapid succession to see if a) there was an applicable rule b) it was possible to ban/remove graffiti if the need arose. I can imagine that various regulations covering hazardous substances (paint), planning, safety (crowd control, police) were pored over before someone realised that Hosier Lane was actually a tourist attraction.

So if this street was a street artist’s canvas, what rules can/should be applied? The answer is of course ones that apply to the graffiti itself and those who put it there, subject if course to normal rules regarding decency and other the rights of others not to have graffiti in their street.

So when your organisation decides to embrace creative thinking you will most likely encounter new situations that you need to deal with. Don’t be alarmed, just involve the appropriate people and do not try to make your existing rules fit, they will restrict your creative output.

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