Whoever Wrote The Rule…

Here’s a sad, but true statistic:

2/3 of all new restaurants fail before their first birthday.

But not Danny Meyer’s establishments. His eateries not only survive, they become culinary icons in the most competitive restaurant market in the world: New York City. His Union Square Hospitality Group owns more than a dozen restaurants, the oldest of which is over 20 years old, and he’s never closed a restaurant!

Makes you wonder, “How does he DO that?”

Danny Meyer knows how to re-frame his preconceptions. In his book, Setting The Table, Danny devotes a whole chapter to this key ingredient in his secret sauce for successful business. The chapter is titled “Whoever Wrote The Rule…”

Whenever Danny runs into a challenge or begins a new project, he starts asking questions that begin with “Whoever wrote the rule…” 

For example, when he had the idea for a “drive-in” burger & shake joint inside Madison Square Park, he asked himself “Whoever wrote the rule that said we can’t create a drive-in shake joint in a city where nobody drives?” He didn’t let his (or anyone else’s) preconceptions get in the way. That thinking led to his wildly successful walk-up Shake Shack concept, which has since spun (or should I say, shaken) off two more locations around NYC and created an intensely loyal following.

Re-framing your preconceptions is really what you mean when you try to “think out side the box.” What you’re doing is re-framing assumptions, rules, regulations, behaviors, attitudes, etc.

I’ve never run across a better or more simple way to quickly achieve breakthrough thinking. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:

1. Identify your challenge (always, always be as specific as you can). A good challenge to me starts with a phrase like, “Why can’t we (insert challenge here)?”

2. List all the rules, parameters, assumptions, criteria, etc. that you can think of around your challenge.

3. Re-frame the rules one by one by asking “Whoever wrote the rule that (insert rule here).”

Here’s another example: My wife and I have been trying to plan a trip to Italy to attend a friend’s wedding. We originally thought we’d all go, both of us and our two kids. We keep looking for great deals, but lemme tell ya, traveling to the land of lasagna ‘aint cheap. It’s so expensive that we’ve pretty much decided that we won’t go.

But this wedding is for one of my wife’s favorite friends in the whole world. The kind of friend you’d be willing to travel around the world to see get married.

So if I employ Danny Meyer’s breakthrough thinking tool and ask, “Whoever wrote the rule that we all have to go to Italy?”, then my options suddenly increase, don’t they? Maybe she could go alone. Or maybe she could take a once-in-a-lifetime trip with one of our kids. Or maybe we could leave some canned food and pizza coupons on the counter and tell the kids we’ll be back in a week (ok, that last one was a joke…really).

What has you stumped? Do you have any challenges that would benefit from a good “Whoever wrote the rule” question or two?

When you master the art of re-framing your preconceptions like this, you open up an amazing new world of possibility.

By the way, the answer to almost every question that starts with “Whoever wrote the rule” is “YOU”. Most of the rules you live and work by are rules YOU created, or at the very least YOU accepted/adopted them. That means YOU have the power to re-write many of the rules any time you want.

If you want some great inspiration from some real-life people who are re-writing their rules, don’t miss our next free event: The Lemonade Movie Premier on March 9th. 


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