Hemmeligheden bag Simple Rules

Interview med den internationale ledelsesekspert Donald Sull

Donald Sull udgav i 2015 bogen “Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World” sammen med Kathleen M. Eisenhardt. CfL bringer her uddrag af et interview i forbindelse med boglanceringen.


Why are simple rules so effective in so many different settings? 

Simple rules work, it turns out, because they do three things very well. First, they confer the flexibility to pursue new opportunities while maintaining some consistency. Second, they can produce better decisions. When information is limited and time is short, simple rules make it fast and easy for people, organizations, and governments to make sound choices. They can even outperform complicated decision-making approaches in some situations.

Finally, simple rules allow the members of a community to synchronize their activities with one another on the fly. As a result, communities can do things that would be impossible for their individual members to achieve on their own. Car sharing company Zipcar relied on simple rules to share cars across thousands of users.

Several of the examples in the book describe people who use simple rules under extreme pressure. Why are simple rules so effective in these settings? 

Simple rules help people to act quickly without agonizing over their decision. This advantage is particularly important in situations, like improvisational comedy or sports-casting, where people have to react as a situation unfolds in real time.

Simple rules are also important when decision making is impaired by exhaustion or extreme stress, and we see them used by front-line medics to assess injured soldiers, firefighters, and mountaineers. These high-stakes situations illustrate the danger of ignoring simple rules under pressure. One of the deadliest days for mountain climbers on Mt. Everest resulted from the mountaineers’ failure to follow the 2 O’clock rule that if you don’t hit the summit by that time, you turn around no matter what. Five climbers lost their lives because they ignored that simple rule. 

Donald Sull

Er lektor ved MIT Sloan School of Management. Don Sull – som han bliver kaldt - er blevet udnævnt som en af de førende forskere inden for management af både The Economist, The Financial Times og Fortune. Ud over Simples Rules er han forfatter til en række andre bøger, herunder Why Good Companies Go Bad.

Før sin akademiske karriere har Donald Sull arbejdet inden for private equity og som konsulent i McKinsey.
Han skrev bogen Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World Paperback I samarbejde med Kathleen M. Eisenhardt. Den udkom i 2015.

A lot has been written about checklists to shape behavior. What’s new about simple rules?

We are huge fans of Atul Gawande’s work on checklists, which are the perfect tool to help anyone, like a pilot or surgeon, avoid forgetting steps in a well-documented process. Checklists eliminate errors by making sure people follow the process to the letter every time. But there are many situations where we need to exercise judgment and creativity to get the job done, such as developing a new product or making investment decisions. In these cases, you want to give people some guidance but also leave lots of room for them to exercise judgment.

By the way, the same person might use a checklist in one situation and simple rules for a different task. The same doctor who systematically checks off the items in a pre-surgery checklist might use simple rules to diagnose a patient with a disease like celiac disorder or depression that requires judgement. 

Læs også: Strategiudvikling omsat til Simple Rules


These days a lot of people are concerned that algorithms and computers will eliminate the need for human judgment. Do you agree?

I teach at MIT, a hotbed of “big data” so I get this question a lot. Many people believe that relentless increases in data and computational power will render human decision makers obsolete.

Recall the scene in the movie Moneyball, when Jonah Hill, (playing an Ivy-League statistician) describes his statistical analysis to a room full of tobacco-chewing baseball scouts. Many viewers left the theater thinking the scouts’ days were numbered. In fact, Billy Beane has increased spending on scouts since Moneyball was written. The scouts bring judgment based on decades of experience and can pick up factors that computer models miss. Instead of replacing scouts with computers, Beane developed a set of simple rules for drafting players that was based on the statistical analysis. Within these guidelines, the scouts were free to exercise their judgment. Simple rules allowed the Oakland A’s to combine the best insights from data analytics with the expertise of the scouts.

Gå ikke glip af videoen med Donald Sull, hvor han bl.a. henviser til DARPA. Bag forkortelsen gemmer sig et bureau under det amerikanske forsvar, som beskæftiger sig med udviklingen af fremspirende teknologier anvendt af militæret.

Få nyheder, tilbud og invitationer til arrangementer direkte i din indbakke

Hver måned trækker vi desuden lod om et kursus, blandt alle nye tilmeldinger til nyhedsbrevet. Læs konkurrencens vilkår og betingelser.

Du kan til enhver tid afmelde dig nyhedsbrevet igen. Se vores privatlivspolitik.

Behov for råd og sparring?

Henrik Hvolbøll Eriksen
Senior Relations Manager
T: +45 2565 9000
E: her@cfl.dk

Henrik Graungaard
T: +45 5154 4126
E: hgr@cfl.dk

Se hvordan vi beskytter dine data, i vores privatlivspolitik

Seneste artikler om strategi


Fra strategi til handling

Velkommen til Strategikonferencen 2021, der henvender sig til ledere på tværs af brancher og sektorer.

Mød den anerkendte ledelsesguru Stephen Bungay.

Konferencen afholdes 28. maj 2021 kl. 9 - 15.30 hos CfL, København Ø

Pris: Medlemmer: 3.000 kr.  / Andre: 5.000 kr.  

Se hele programmet for Strategikonferencen her


Vi hjælper dig med strategiarbejdet

Sådan arbejder CfL med strategi - fra formål over analyse til eksekvering.