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Rules, Cheats & Rebels

Rules, Cheats and Rebels

What is the Rules, Cheats & Rebels story tactic?

Tell us a rule, then show someone breaking it. Now you've got our attention: will they be punished or vindicated?

What do Eve, Pandora and Peter Rabbit have in common? They were all given rules-and broke them. Eve eats the apple, Pandora opens the box, Peter Rabbit goes into Mr McGregor's garden. And that's when things get interesting. We all live by rules. So we pay very close attention to stories about anyone who breaks them.

If you're a rule-breaking innovator, try this tactic alongside Trust Me, I'm an Expert.

How to use the Rules, Cheats & Rebels story tactic

  1. Who is the rule breaker in your story? It could be you, the innovator. Or it could be your user, customer or stakeholder.

  2. Set out all the possible rules the hero of your story could break.
    Remember that most of the rules we live by are not written down.
    (Good & Evil helps you identify unwritten social rules)

  3. Now play the story out in two directions:

    Your Hero is a Rebel:

    • Rebels act selflessly and at cost to themselves.

    • Rebels break society's rules in order to obey a higher rule.
      Think of Rosa Parks or Emmeline Pankhurst.

    • Rebels don't hide their actions.

    What happens next? We want Rebels to be vindicated. The moral of a Rebel story is: "this rule no longer holds."


    Your Hero is a Cheat:

    • Cheats act selfishly to avoid cost to themselves.

    • Cheats break rules the rest of us have to follow. Think of politicians breaching their own lockdown restrictions.

    • Cheats hide their actions.

    What happens next? We want Cheats to be punished. The moral of a Cheat story is: "this rules still applies."


Tip: Downfall shows how we can learn valuable lessons from the story of a punished Cheat.

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